By Steve Czaban Special to Published Feb 27, 2008 at 5:11 AM

The meaningful portion of Kelvin Sampson's coaching career is now over.

He turns 53 on Oct. 5.

It's staggering to think how a two-time national coach of the year, a guy respected enough to become president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, having just landed a prime job like Indiana, could commit career suicide like this.

Sure, he'll probably coach again. But, don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen. The comparable case is former Cal coach Todd Bozeman, who was in exile for almost a decade before resurfacing at Morgan State.

Sampson, if he's lucky, may one day get on the Lefty Driesell Plan and wind up at his own version of James Madison or Georgia State.

But, he'll only be a sorrowful footnote -- a cautionary tale -- on the college basketball scene.

Someday, Kelvin Sampson will talk about all of this. I'm not sure when or where. For now, he's got too much to stay quiet about. He must both cooperate with the NCAA and Indiana's ongoing investigation, all while making sure not to screw up the pennies-on-the-dollar buyout of his contract.

When he does talk, I will be fascinated to know the answer to the most basic question:


Why does a guy who clearly knows how to draw up X's and O's and motivate the "Jimmy's and the Joe's" need to pop up on three-way cell phone calls to woo potential recruits?

Especially after he was warned specifically not to do it, under threat of the most serious NCAA penalties.

There's something almost pathological about it, which makes you shake your head in wonder.

Could playing for Sampson at Indiana -- a legendary cradle of college basketball -- be such a tough sell? Do kids today really need constant phone calls to convince them where to play?

Once you get over the weather issue and a general lack of scenery in Bloomington, Ind., it's all gravy from there. The fan base is smart and loyal. The town and state will treat you like rock stars when you win. The educational chops of the school are second to none. And you will be on TV as much as any program in the country.

So again, why did Sampson feel the need to cheat?

I am dying to know his thought process.

You can say that his punishment was too harsh, relative to all the other academic and recruiting shenanigans that still exist in college sports. To an extent, you would be correct. These infractions were just phone calls and not convertibles, gold watches, or big screen TVs.

But when you are directly on notice not to do it again, and you do, then lie about it...

Well, good luck to you then. Kelvin's obviously ran out.

In a way, Sampson's urge to continue to live on the "cheaters edge" is very Belichickian in nature. The parallels to New England's tarnished football coach are very tight.

Like Sampson, Belichick and others were specifically told NOT to do something. Like Sampson, Belichick had a loaded team on his hands and hardly needed the extra edge. But, like Sampson, Belichick ignored common sense and is now paying the price.

The only difference here is that Belichick got off relatively light by comparison. It's amazing, too, when you think a $500,000 fine and loss of a first-round draft pick is "light."

But it is. Think about it. Sampson was making close to $2 million per year at Indiana. If he managed to take this team to the Final Four, that price might have gone up.

Considering how successful he had been up to the moment he resigned in disgrace last week, it's hard not to think he had at least 10 more good years of major Division I coaching in him if he chose.

So go ahead, do the math. Sampson would have stroked a $500,000 check to make it all go away in a heartbeat.

Cheating in sports, large and small, is nothing new. However today's incredible fortunes available for those who win, or hit an extra 20 home runs per summer, make getting that "cheaters edge" even more tempting.

Perhaps the cheater, once he's stooped to the level of cutting corners, starts to rationalize in his own mind the acts he's committing. Perhaps then, and only then, does he lose sight of just how much he endangered his fortune, reputation and legacy.

What happened to Kelvin Sampson makes no sense to anybody standing on the outside. Someday, I would be fascinated to know what logic he had constructed on his own, for it all to make sense to him.

Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.