And though Olajuwon, Hayes and Drexler were playing for the team years before his current players were born, Sampson credited those stars for giving him a boost in recruiting through the 2016 ESPN documentary about those teams.
“Houston has a name,” Sampson said. “The 30-for-30 piece they did on Phi Slama Jama, every kid we recruited kind of got educated on the history of Houston. That was … an unbelievable infomercial for our program now. Just let people see what this program was. It’s a sleeping giant. It was just dormant.”
Now that Sampson has made Houston basketball relevant again, he is focused on making the trip to the NCAA tournament a yearly occurrence. He pointed to banners that line the team’s practice gym which are adorned with the words “NCAA Tournament” and the year of the trip.
“Every day I look at that spot right beside 2010 knowing that there’s going to be a banner that says 2018,” he said. “And then I’m going to look at that spot right by 2018 and I’m going to think 2019, 2020, 2021. That’s your goal.”