There’s a “growing belief among league insiders” that Kelvin Sampson has emerged as the prime target in the Magic’s coaching search, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). It’s the second time we’ve heard Sampson linked to Orlando, as Mitch Lawrence recently tweeted that the University of Houston head coach was being regarded as a “top candidate” for the Orlando job.
Of the four NBA teams currently seeking a new head coach, the Magic are the only club whose search has been ongoing since the end of the regular season. The Bucks and Raptors began looking for head coaches after they were eliminated from the playoffs, while the Pistons didn’t make a decision on Stan Van Gundy until early May. However, Orlando’s search has now taken over a month, and the team has been cagey about which candidates it’s focusing on.
So far, the only confirmed interviewees for the Magic are Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, and David Fizdale, who has since been hired by the Knicks. Nick Nurse and Jerry Stackhouse of the Raptors were viewed as possible contenders, given their connection to Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, but Lawrence suggests those Toronto assistants aren’t in the mix. It’s not clear if Dwane Casey is on Orlando’s list of candidates.
While Sampson may seem like an out-of-left-field target for the Magic, he has a link to Weltman as well — Sampson was an assistant coach in Milwaukee several years ago when Weltman was serving as an assistant GM for the Bucks.
Sampson, who was also a Rockets assistant for a few years, returned to the college ranks in 2014 after his five-year show-cause penalty for NCAA violations with Indiana expired. He has been the head coach of the Cougars for the last four seasons, and was named the AAC Coach of the Year this spring.