Ralph Sampson is considering giving up the last two years of his eligibility at the University of Virginia to become a millionaire with Dallas or Detroit in the National Basketball Association.
Cavalier Coach Terry Holland said yesterday he would ask the Mavericks and the Pistons, owners of the first two college draft picks, to submit, in writing, contract proposals to Sampson, the 7-foot-4 collegiate player of the year who led Virginia to the NCAA semifinal round.
But neither club can submit an unconditional contract until a coin toss is made to determine which team drafts first. And the flip will not be made until April 25, the date Sampson must declare whether to turn professional or remain in college for at least one more year.
The sophomore turned down a $3 million offer a year ago from the Boston Celtics, who then were assured of drafting first.
Sampson had indicated recently he would return to Virginia next year. Sampson was in Atlanta accepting an award last night with Holland and could not be reached for comment.
A team spokesman said, "Sampson is not in a position to declare what he can do before one of the two teams makes a firm offer."
However, Russell Granik, legal counsel for the NBA, said neither team can make an unconditional deal with a college player until sure of its drafting position. This is the first year that the coin flip is scheduled to come after the college renunciation date. An exact date has not been set for the toss.
A Dallas spokesman said yesterday that the club may seek to have the coin flip date moved up for the "convienence of all parties involved."
Because league rules say only the team with the worst record in each division can talk to prospective players, only Dallas and Detroit can approach Sampson.
Holland said in a taped interview that Piston General Manager Jack McCloskey had called him and expressed interest in contacting Sampson.
The Maverick spokesman said the club had not talked with Holland and did not plan to contact Sampson until the situation was clearer. "I would doubt that we'll talk to Detroit, either," the spokesman said.
Detroit and Dallas "can get involved in some wild dollar figure exchanges," the Dallas official continued. "Supposed Detroit offers him $500,000 and we offer him $300,000; then we win the coin flip. Does he declare collusion because a market price has already been set? The possibilities are endless."
None of the coaches and general managers of the NBA teams could be reached yesterday. But Holland said McCloskey commented that he would "love to talk to Ralph about playing for Detroit." However, Sampson said he would rather be mailed materials he could read at his leisure because he is too busy with classes.
Officials from both teams have indicated they would not create a circus by pursuing Sampson with the open vigor Boston's Red Auerback did last season. "We're not going to do what Red did," the Dallas spokesman said. "All along we intended for it to be a low-key approach after the season was over."
Holland said his feeling is that Sampson will return to Charlottsville for his junior year.
The last time Detroit was involved in a coin toss, the Pistons won and selected 6-11 center Bob Lanier, one of the best pivot men of his era.
Holland was quoted as saying earlier this week, "I would like to think he (Sampson) would decide what he's going to do well before April 25. We'd like to get this settled as soon as we can."
The NBA draft will be held June 9.