Magic Head Coaching Rumors: Kelvin Sampson Is Orlando's Top Candidate

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2018

WICHITA, KS - MARCH 17:  Head coach Kelvin Sampson of the Houston Cougars reacts as they take on the Michigan Wolverines in the first half during the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at INTRUST Bank Arena on March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic may be setting their sights on Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson as Frank Vogel's replacement this summer.

The New York Times' Marc Stein reported Wednesday "there is a growing belief" the Magic have identified Sampson as their preferred target.

The bulk of Sampson's coaching career has come at the college level, with stops at Washington State, Oklahoma, Indiana and most recently Houston. The 62-year-old helped the Cougars return to the NCAA tournament in 2018 for the first time since 2010.

Sampson also served as an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets, spending three years with each team after the NCAA had placed a five-year show-cause penalty on him for recruiting violations at Indiana.

During his spell in the NBA, ESPN's Jeff Goodman noted Sampson became acquainted with two members of the Magic's current front office:

Sampson would be a surprising choice for the Magic given lack of NBA head-coaching experience coupled with his age, but Orlando might as well take a chance on somebody out of left field.

The Magic are looking at what might be the most painstaking rebuild in the league. A series of failed roster moves have left Orlando with few building blocks for the future beyond Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Evan Fournier—and including Fournier on that list is somewhat questionable since he's 25 and an unrestricted free agent after the 2020-21 season.

Vogel was coming off five playoff appearances in six seasons with the Indiana Pacers before he took the Magic job, but Orlando won a total of 54 games in two years under his watch.

Attracting a proven head coach might be difficult for the Magic, and even a great head coach would likely struggle to get anything out of the team's current roster.

Were he hired, Sampson could potentially represent a bridge to the next head coach when Orlando is closer to contending for the playoffs.

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