Quannas White, fueled by Kelvin Sampson’s trust, takes over in UH’s time of need
Less than two minutes into Saturday’s game against South Carolina, Houston’s head coach removed his jacket and tossed it aside.
Although the signature move has become tradition over the years, it wasn’t Kelvin Sampson doing the jacket tossing on Saturday. It wasn’t even Kellen Sampson, his son and assisstant coach who has already been designated as the program’s next leader.
Instead, it was acting head coach Quannas White throwing his jacket as he led the shorthanded Cougars to a grinded-out win over South Carolina after both Sampsons were sidelined due to COVID-19 issues.
“It’s a great feeling,” White told reporters after the game via a Zoom conference call. “I’m really proud of the team … Coach Sampson has done a great job of laying the foundation and building an unbelievable culture, not just in Houston, but everywhere he’s been. Our kids played their hearts out.”
White knew he was going to step into the role just a couple of days prior. The Cougars test for COVID-19 three times a week, the older Sampson told reporters after the game via Zoom.
The Cougars tested on Monday and Wednesday leading up to the game against South Carolina and were clear from any positive results, he added.
On Thursday, however, the younger Sampson tested positive for the virus, a second test revealing the same results. After his father was deemed a close contact, White was the person that emerged as the one who was going to be the acting head coach.
And the Cougars went from there.
The players learned that they were going to be without the two Sampsons on Friday morning, and they quickly embraced White as their temporary leader, junior guard Quentin Grimes said.
“He’s a winner,” the older Sampson said of White.
The acting head coach did not take long to impose his own personality on the Cougars.
After a sluggish first half, which resulted in UH trailing at halftime for the first time all season, the Cougars came out and gave up a 3-pointer to South Carolina’s Justin Minaya, and then a fastbreak dunk to junior forward Keyshawn Bryant.
White had seen enough and called a 30-second timeout just 72 seconds into the second period.
Following the brief break, the Cougars then outscored the Gamecocks 16-6 over the next six minutes of game time, and never looked back as they secure a lead they never relinquished.
“The kids responded,” Kelvin Sampson said. “That’s the sign of great respect on both sides.”
After the game, the Cougars celebrated the victory with White as the acting head coach with a shower of water bottles and even a Gatorade tub. The players made sure he was drenched from head to toe.
— Houston Men's Hoops 🏀 🐾 (@UHCougarMBK) December 6, 2020
While White will get to be the lead man for UH at least one more time against Sam Houston State, Saturday was a first taste of what his ultimate goal is — to lead his own program.
White gave a lot of credit for his preparation to his boss.
During practices, Kelvin Sampson delegates a lot of the responsibilities to head coaches, allowing them to be in control of their teams during scrimmages and run the sets.
Even heading into Saturday, UH’s head coach gave White another confidence boost just by staying calm and showing his trust in the assistant.
“It dates all the way back to when I played, all the great memories that we had in Oklahoma,” White said. “He just trusts me, and I love him for that.”
While being a head coach one day is White’s ultimate goal, for now, he is excited to be a part of leading this UH team to its ceiling.
“I love this team,” White said. “I think this team has a chance to do something special come March.”