Virginia basketball Coach Terry Holland said yesterday he would be "very surprised" if 7-foot-4 Cavalier freshman center Ralph Sampson decides to enter his name in the hardship category of the June National Basketball Association draft.
"That's his thinking and that can change," Holland said yesterday from Charlottesville. "He's 19 years old."
However, Holland made it clear that he would not stand between Sampson "and him making a million dollars."
Boston Celtics' owner Harry Mangurin and Red Auerbach, president and general manager of the team, which holds the No. 1 choice in the draft, will meet Tuesday night in Harrisonburg, Va., with Sampson's parents.
Also attending the meeting, which Auerbach said could be characterized as "the start of negotiations," will be Holland and Roger Bergey, who coached Sampson at Harrisonburg High. Sampson, who earlier had said he would not declare hardship status and would return to Virginia for his sophomore season, will not attend.
Auerbach said the Celtics would make Sampson the No. 1 pick if he were available. To be available, Sampson must declare as a hardship case by April 25. Under NCAA rules, he does not lose his eligibility until he declares hardship or hires an agent.
"Auerbach called and wanted to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Sampson," Holland said yesterday in Charlottesville. "Ralph has made his decision (to stay) right now unless there is something to change it. You've got to be excited and flattered and everything else that the Celtics want to pick him first. He's interested in knowing what's going on."
Holland is sure that salary terms will be discussed at Tuesday night's meeting.
"If Boston is serious about drafting Ralph," Holland said, "we want to be sure there are no behind-the-scenes dealings that could jeopardize his eligibility at Virginia.
"I'm not interested in standing between Ralph and him making $1 million. But I don't want a bunch of jerks getting paid $10,000 here and $10,000 there to help him make up his mind.
"That's why I said, 'Let's not have a bunch of people sneaking around. Let's meet with the parents and have some objective third person involved.'"
Sampson, who led Virginia to the NIT championship, said when he enrolled at Virginia last fall that he intended to attend the Atlantic Coast Conference school for only two years.
Sampson was quoted in Thursday's editions of the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun Sentinel as saying he'd consider declaring himself a hardship case and turning pro if the Celtics made him an offer.
"It probably would change my thinking about not turning hardship," Sampson was quoted as saying. "But it would take a long-term contract and some big numbers for me even to consider it. If Utah had won the flip, I wouldn't even be considering it. What's important to me right now is what the Celtics think of me. I'll just wait until I hear from them."
Sampson could not be reached for comment yesterday.