He May be Jud’s Disciple, but Even Jesus had a Judas

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He May be Jud’s Disciple, but Even Jesus had a Judas

Watching the demise of Indiana Head basketball coach Kelvin Sampson is sad. No, I am not in anyway condoning what he has done. I am not justifying it or even saying it is close to O.K. It is sad because I rooted for him for a long time.

It is no secret that the Godfather of MSU basketball is Jud Heathcote. Kelvin was a “Jud guy.” Kelvin was someone that the Spartan Nation kept their eye on. Kelvin was that guy that throughout his meteoric rise up the college coaching ranks you looked at with a sense of pride. He was one of ours. We took pride when he was the head of college coaching associations and led the way for fighting for the integrity of the game. We looked on as yet another “Jud guy” did it right.

We have always had the sense that an MSU guy was doing things the right way. Recently, that all came crashing down. When the charges were first levied at Oklahoma, we all thought no way. We all thought that Kelvin had probably made a mistake, but surely he couldn’t have gone from a spokesman against this stuff to being one of THEM!Â

We learned that he was one of THEM! We learned that he had a reckless abandon for the rules. Straight from the “book of Jud,” we learned to withstand criticism while losing countless recruits. The “I am not cheating at all costs mentality” from Sampson’s predecessor all but left the building.

On Saturday I was in the media room in Bloomington a couple hours before tip off. I was talking with Dick Vitale and Bob Kravitz (Indy Star) about the IU situation. I don’t mind sharing one part of the conversation because I found out that Vitale essentially said the same thing on television later. Vitale is known as a supporter of coaches and players. I was really surprised (as a member of the Spartan Nation) when he reiterated his comments on TV. “I just don’t understand, I don’t know why a guy would throw away a great career for something that you really have to shake your head at. Did it really give him an advantage? Was it worth it?”

There is no question that Sampson can coach. There is no question that he had a bright future and a national respect that gave him a sky is the limit. There is also no question that when Bob Kravitz of the Indy Star called him a “sleaze” that he was correct.

The Jud coaching tree does it right. The Jud coaching tree is full of disciples that coach hard, coach tough and play by the rules. Sampson is from that tree, but is also a part of the tree that is now up for a good pruning.

Sampson will be fired this week. I spoke with Indiana officials on Saturday. They were quick to point out that AD Greenspan never wanted him. In fact, Greenspan all but told ESPN that there was a lot more people than he involved in the search. Off the record, everyone I spoke with distanced themselves from Sampson and all confirmed the seven day inquiry is only to protect themselves from a future suit like Ohio State endured.

I never like to see a person lose their job. I never wish harm or sadness on people. I feel no sympathy here. Someone told me sitting courtside before the game on Saturday, “How do you feel sorry for those F****** at IU? They hire a coach and give him a $500,000 bonus if he DOESN’T cheat!” I feel no sympathy of the AD, who if he really didn’t want him should have walked away, and an administration that signed on. I feel no sympathy for Sampson and those who made the stupid decision to hire him.Â

I do feel sorry for the fans that want him gone. I also feel sorry for a guy sitting out in Washington state; a man who played by the rules. A man who has forever impacted college basketball with his lineage of great teachers and men that he can call good guys. I feel sorry for Jud Heathcote.

Love or hate him, I love him. He is a great man. He loves basketball and basketball has loved him back; Jud has always given his all. He aligned himself with friends that played by the same rules he always did. Jud wasn’t always politically correct, but he was always real. Jud told me a story once about he and his good friend Gene Keady (former coach at Purdue). The only thing funnier than the initial story was talking to Coach Keady at Big Ten media day and getting the “Ole’ Boiler’s” perspective.

Once at Jenison Field House when the Big Ten was less than clean at the recruiting level, Keady and Jud where frustrated with some other coaches and programs. Jud beat Keady in a game that was close all night and came down to the final minute to be decided. Keady’s temper is legendary and after a few moments in the post game locker room, he went to the MSU locker room and beat on the door. When Jud answered (finally) Keady screamed, “I hate to lose, but if I have to, I can live with the fact that at least it is to you F******!”

That story symbolizes what MSU basketball and the Jud Heathcote tree are all about. Sampson is no longer a part of it. Sampson is a cheater. Sampson doesn’t play by the same rules. He isn’t like the others that have gone to other schools while struggling and did it the right way. He took the easy way out.

I feel for Jud. His disciples adore him. He is called and asked for his opinions and thoughts by his guys all the time. Even when he is not asked, he calls anyway and gives his opinion. Sampson is like that one uncle that every family has to endure at the family gatherings. You ask yourself, how could he be part of this family?Â

Heathcote has his disciples. He has a Judas; a Judas named Sampson.