Underwood: 'We're going to win'

Underwood: 'We're going to win'

CHAMPAIGN — All three of Brad Underwood’s children were born in Illinois during his decade as an assistant coach at Western Illinois University.

His son Tyler’s first basketball jersey was that of formerIllini standout Brian Cook — a story Underwood said he likes to tells all the time.

Underwood now makes his return to Illinois, hired as the 18th coach in Illini basketball program history on Saturday.

“I’ve got tremendous love for the state of Illinois and for this program,” Underwood said late Saturday afternoon after arriving in Champaign from Stillwater, Okla. “Having spent 10 years (in Illinois), I got a true appreciation for how great this program is and how important basketball is.”

Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman had his first in-person meeting with Underwood on Saturday morning. Mere hours later he was officially making his third coaching hire in just more than a year on the job, hiring Underwood away from Oklahoma State.

“It’s been a pretty wild few days,” Whitman said. “We had our first in person conversation this morning. Things have happened pretty quickly. It’s all unfolded in a hurry. I can’t be appreciative enough for Brad and his family for trusting us and choosing to take this step with us.”

Full contract details have not been finalized, but according to a source close to the program Underwood will receive a six-year contract valued at more than $3 million per season.

Underwood made $1 million this season at Oklahoma State, part of a five-year contract worth $6.3 million

Underwood spent just this past season at Oklahoma State and guided the Cowboys to an eight-win improvement to go along with NCAA tournament berth.

Oklahoma State lost in the first round to Michigan on Friday in Indianapolis.

“I think there’s not many places I would do that for,” Underwood said. “For this one? Absolutely, and not many other places I would even consider that for. The Big Ten is a special conference, Illinois basketball is special and the timing was absolutely perfect.”

Whitman said several factors played into his decision.

Underwood’s proven track record as a coach — he’s 109-27 in four seasons as a head coach — played a role. So did Underwood’s appreciation for Illinois basketball, how he relates to his players and the style of play his teams utilize.

“You watch a team of his play for just five minutes and you understand the tenacity that they have, the speed at which they play, the intensity (and) the toughness that they show,” Whitman said. “Envisioning that team on our floor got me really excited. The things that he’s done both at his time at (Stephen F. Austin) and now at Oklahoma State, it just pops off the page. You look at the improvement his teams have made during his tenure, and it’s nothing short of remarkable.”

Before his lone season at Oklahoma State, Underwood compiled an 89-14 record at Stephen F. Austin and lost just one game in Southland Conference action in his first head coaching job.

He was an assistant at South Carolina, Kansas State (his alma mater) and Western Illinois with two brief additional stints as a junior college coach.

Now, Underwood will try to maintain his level of success at a third school in three years.

“We’re going to win,” he said. “Illinois basketball is special. It’s one of the elite programs in the country. I have so much respect for the high school coaches in this state. I have so much respeect for the fan base. I’ve been in that arena when it’s packed. We deserve to be great.”

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Brownshoe wrote on March 18, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Well, I'm underwhelmed.

But I expected to be underwhelmed, for it is not a great job, and in no way were we going to get a "home run," coach - especially not with the Indiana job open. IMO our only home run hope was Monty Williams, and he did not want it.

But, truly, the home run decision won't really be made for at least a year or two, and maybe Underwood will turn our to have been one. I hope so.

The key question is: CAN HE RECRUIT?

I really wanted to see an assistant get it, another Chris Collins, etc., with Jamall Walker heading my list - simply because I think he is well qualified and my familiarity with other possible assistants is zilch.

In any event I'm behind Underwood 100%, but if he does not pan out, Whitman really screwed up, not in firing Groce, but in not promoting Walker, whom I think would have been just as promising as Underwood.

I hope, for Underwood's sake, if nothing else, that he can at least keep this recruiting class, if not he will be off on the wrong foot. Getting Mark Smith also, would be a huge step in the right direction. Those two goals should be the only thing on his plate right now, if they aren't, he was a mistake - but I'm sure he knows that, he better.

At least Whitman did not waste time.

P.S. To those posters who are having a kindergarten girl cat fight, whose posts clutter this up with stuff I have to ignore. ARE YOU PEOPLE SICK? DON'T YOU REALIZE THAT NOBODY READS, OR WANTS TO READ, YOUR CRAPOLA?

Berto71 wrote on March 18, 2017 at 8:03 pm

It's an interesting fact that a basketball coach, who makes more than any UI administrator, has been hired in just a week, without involving search firms or hiring committees. But when the UI needs to hire a president, a chancellor, or a provost, the university spends a ton of money on search firms, the process takes forever, and they still end up with knuckleheads like White, Hogan and Killeen.   Makes one wonder ...

westcoastillini wrote on March 18, 2017 at 8:03 pm

Never heard of him.  But good luck!

cjwinla wrote on March 19, 2017 at 8:03 am

Ain't White Privelage Grand !!! .. one week search... no candidates of color considered ... and a raise from $1mil per year to $3mil per year after LOSING to MICHIGAN in the tournament ..... Champaign Il has become  the metaphoric movie called GET OUT for black men .... 

Moonpie wrote on March 19, 2017 at 9:03 am

Welcome, new coach. Some advice: Don't toss around "elite program" quite yet. First--it will have to actually become an elite program. Currently, it leans closer to dumpster fire thanks to Coach Grimace.

Maybe the new coach meant that it could become elite. Okay--we'll go with that for now. After all, he may have jet lag from all that whirlwind private jet stuff.

Good luck. Don't forget to kneel and kiss Tate's ring.

IMAN wrote on March 19, 2017 at 12:03 pm

What a ludcirous comment above about race.  Monty Willams was supposedly offered the job but because of family situation declined.  Kevin Keatts was on the short list.  Brad Underwood happened to be a perfect fit an the perfect storm from the idiot AD at Okie State for reneging on a promise to renegotitate BU's contract if he made the tourney.  This is a great hire. 

borderbelle wrote on March 19, 2017 at 12:03 pm

This is obscene.  There is NO ONE in  ANY sports field who is worth $3 million a year.  The university is always saying they need money for this or money for that...use the $3million for those projects,salaries, etc.   And you know that this new guy is going to need more than a year to turn the program around adequately and consistently.  So, there will be moaning and groaning if it doesn't go the way the fans like it next year.   Can't make 'em happy no matter what. 

wayward wrote on March 20, 2017 at 11:03 am

Whitman could have just named "Internet Comments Section" as the new basketball HC.  Instead of $3 million a year, absolutely free -- and worth every penny!