LIVE! Brad Underwood

LIVE! Brad Underwood

Listen to today's podcast here

Our photo gallery from today's introduction at SFC here

The press conference has been finished for a while now, but there were plenty of one-on-one interviews to be had at State Farm Center that will drive the coverage in Tuesday's News-Gazette.

Be on the lookout for stories from Bob Asmussen and Marcus Jackson and a column from Loren Tate. Scott Richey (me again) have more as part of my game coverage with Illinois and Boise State set to tip in about 6 hours and then more, I'm sure, this week.


More from Brad Underwood ...

"We want skilled players. We've been tremendous shooting teams. I think you have to put the ball in the basket to win. There's a certain level of athleticism. But I do think that character wins and I do think that basketball IQ wins. 

"Winning is something we look for. The evaluation process for my staff is extremely important. It's not picking up a name off a scouting report. We're going to see them and see how they fit."


Brad Underwood still taking questions ...

"The 'we will win?' That's what I'm about. When you have your boss believe that and the commitment they make to being successful in all sports that's very, very important. I didn't need any more than that. I knew the history. I knew the tradition. I knew the great players. I knew how good this conference was.

"(Staff construction) is a daily process we're going through. My biggest concern is the team's still playing. ... I have a tremendous amount of respect for the job (Jamall Walker) is doing. ... We won't have a good staff. We'll have a great staff here.

"My wife told my son he'd always go to school here. ... I think the timing of this was unique. I didn't know that I'd ever leave Stillwater. You hope in the back of your mind, but in coaching sometimes the unexepcted happens. This was truly the case."


Brad Underwood now taking questions ...

"Keeping players at home is a vital part of any program's success. Here? We've got a plethora of good players and keeping them here is very important to us.

"There's a sense of toughness that scares people to be quite honest (on style comparison to Frank Martin and Bob Huggins). That comes from a commitment from the head coach to work on that end. ... We'll lay a foundation. We'll do everything we can to become that as quickly as we can.

"The coaching business is nothing more than relationships. I've been able to develop a lot of relationships, and even when I wasn't in (Illinois) the state was always a part of our recruiting process. The way I like to recruit. You all may care sometimes if they are four-stars or five-stars. I don't. It's about putting pieces of a puzzle together and the identity that you create. The other thing is we always recruit here because of how well these young men are coached. It doesn't happen everywhere."


More from Brad Underwood ...

"I'd be remiss, as historic as this program is, if I didn't mention the former players, coaches and managers. Every elite program — and this is an elite program — has a place to recognize their former players and have them involved.  I want our current players to know when their time is done they have something to be extremely proud of. 

"We'll work very, very hard to continue to bring as many of those athletes back. To them, they built this. I'm an old school historian from that aspect. The tradition and culture of this program is why I'm standing here today."


More from Brad Underwood ...

"There's a commitment to winning. I use this phrase a lot — losing's not an option. I want our players to believe that. I had one very short conversation with them. I've had a very brief conversation with Jamall (Walker). In all fairness, this is about them right now. ... I don't want to be a distraction for them at this time.

"I'm a culture guy. Our culture is based on work. Our culture is based on family. ... That is something I don't think there's enough value in. We actually live it and talk about it in terms of staying together.

"We're going to play hard. We're going to play the right way. We're going to play for each other. We're going to play for the name on the front.

"I like to play up tempo. I like to be in your face defensively. I like to take advantage of, on the offensive end, every option available."


New Illinois coach Brad Underwood ...

"I thought I was from a basketball state in Kansas," he said. "Nothing like (Illinois). To go to a high school game on Tuesday and Friday nights, the town would shut down. I came here for state tournaments and to see the arena packed made a huge impact.

"I've felt this is an elite program. As Josh and I visited, that resonated with me. I used the term a lot, you'll hear me, but I dream big. I dream bigger, and winning a national championship is something that can happen here and I want to be a part of that. I want to lead this program to that. When your director of athletics has that same vision, that was important to me."


Brad Underwood taking the podium now. He's decked out in a navy suit and orange tie. The orange tie, perhaps, he already had in his wardrobe.

"I'm very humbled, very honored to be standing here today," Underwood said. "This is a very special moment in my life, one I'm not sure would ever come to fruition."

Underwood's son, Tyler, will be transferring to Illinois. He was a redshirt freshman on Oklahoma State roster. Spent his freshman year at Stephen F. Austin with his dad, too.


Josh Whitman said Brad Underwood was at the top of Illinois' list of potential coaches from the beginning. The intiial discussion, however, was doubt Illinois could get him. Whitman called Underwood's representatives last Wednesday — that was the first contact — and that's when Illinois found out it had a chance.

"I never had any direct conversations with Brad, by text or phone, until Saturday morning," Whitman said. "Needless to say, we hit it off. We had a lot of the same values (and vision of Illinois basketball program). ... Things have happened quickly since then. Let me tell you what I love about Brad Underwood. It's a long, long list."

That list from Whitman ...

— Proven winner

— Develops players and develops programs

— Teams have strong identity (toughness, intensity, tenacity to way teams play)

— Style of play (move fast, aggressive, get in your face on defense)

— High integrity, no interest in breaking rules or running afoul of ways Illinois expects coaches and programs to operate

— Teacher

— Stresses relationships with players, staff, fans, community

— Cares a lot about University of Illinois and wants to be here


Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman is up first. Stressed getting the waiver to hire Brad Underwood on Saturday was important with other coaching jobs coming open (Indiana, California and Washington).

"We recognized that if we waited until midnight tonight we would be putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage," Whitman said. "You start with a list. That list, as most of you would guess, is not much different than the lists many people would come up with. ... The next step is much more difficult, and that's the vetting. There's a lot of vetting that goes into the names put on that list."

Whitman said the Internet is a real resource for vetting. Videos available (game film, mic'd up practices, interviews) give a good inside look. Part of his vetting also came from talking with former Illini Jerry Colangelo and Mannie Jackson.


State Farm Center, 11:58 a.m.

A couple other quick notes on Brad Underwood's contract before we get going.

— Underwood's release from prior contractual obligation (aka his buyout from Oklahoma State) is $3 million. That's part of his contract with Illinois. Illinois is paying it.

— Underwood's buyout at Illinois is significantly higher. If he were to leave after one year (like he did at Oklahoma State), it would cost him $8.5 million. That figure drops through the course of the six-year deal to $1 million in year six. If Josh Whitman were to leave Illinois any time from years three through six, that figure would be reduced further.

— Illinois spokesman Kent Brown just emphasized all of the contract details are subject to Board of Trustees approval. 


State Farm Center, 11:45 a.m.

Just got Brad Underwood's contract details. As previously reported, it's a six-year deal. It expires April 30, 2023. 

Total annual compensation:
Year 1: $2.75 million
Year 2: $2.85 million
Year 3: $2.95 million
Year 4: $3.05 million
Year 5: $3.15 million
Year 6: $3.25 million

Retention incenctive:
$600,000 if employed as head coach on May 1, 2020
$600,000 if employed as head coach on May 1, 2022

Staff compensation:
Budget allocation for the three on-court assistant coaches shall be up to $850,000
Budget allocation for up to six basketball support staff up to $550,000


State Farm Center, 11:35 a.m.

It's been a busy first year for Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman. This will be the third introductory press conference he's had for a new Illini coach, with a fourth coming.

His decision to make consecutive coaching changes in men's and women's basketball, of course, finished off the Mike Thomas trifecta. Thomas' first three moves at Illinois were to fire his football coach and basketball coaches.

Now, Whitman has done the same, firing Bill Cubit (who took over for Thomas hire Tim Beckman), John Groce and Matt Bollant.

The only Thomas hire still at Illinois is softball coach Tyra Perry. The fact she guided Illinois to the NCAA tournament in her first season could be a good sign she might have a little more staying power than the rest. Whitman's other hire, of course, was in volleyball where he brought in Chris Tamas after former Illinois coach Kevin Hambly left for Stanford.


State Farm Center, 11:27 a.m.

There was a slight delay in getting this first update posted as I was sequestered (basically) in the lobby of the east entrance at State Farm Center as Boise State finished up its practice.

That's right. Let's not forget amidst all the new coach hoopla that there's an actual basketball game tonight. Illinois and Boise State will face off at 8 p.m. on ESPN in the second round of the NIT.

Meanwhile, back to the new coach ... Brad Underwood's introductory press conference is being held in the Traditions Club with the new scoreboard as the backdrop. The fans that attend will be able to watch from the 200 Level of above.

Based on Twitter it seems like there's been some interest in fans attending. Those that can't, of course, can listen live on WDWS 1400-AM, as today's extended Monday Morning Quarterabck with Jim Turpin and Loren Tate will lead right into the press conference.


Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman wasn't kidding when he said he didn't like for head coach openings to be open long. A week after firing John Groce as Illini men's basketball coach, Whitman hired Brad Underwood away from Oklahoma State. 

The official introductory press conference is set to start in an hour at State Farm Center. The News-Gazette/WDWS staff will have you well covered.

The press conference will be streamed live on both WDWS 1400-AM and WHMS 97.5 FM. Illini beat writer Scott Richey (that's me) will be manning this very LIVE! Report.

Longtime writer Bob Asmussen will also be in attendance, and you can bet even longer time columnist Loren Tate will be there, too. Plus, plenty of photos from the N-G photography staff. Look for plenty of coverage this week in The News-Gazette and here at

Of course, there was plenty of Underwood coverage that's already graced the pages of The News-Gazette from his arrival in Champaign on Saturday. (Links at the top right of page for more).

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.”

To continue reading, click here. 

Then make sure you keep checking out throughout the day — for this LIVE! Report and another coming tonight when Illinois tries to continue its NIT run in the second round against Boise State. 

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Wiseguy1130 wrote on March 20, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Can't seem to get paragraphs entered in the lower part of this post.  Sorry for the more difficult reading because of that.

Coach Underwood seems to have the vision and plans to be able to jump-start the program and maintain success. I'm optimistic and excited about the future of Illini basketball. Have to also credit the decisive action of Josh Whitman, whose legacy as AD might well be defined by this decision. 

I'm also impressed with the reporting of Scott Richey, who just might be the hardest working journalist at the N-G.

After further review:

The Wiseguy experiment is over.

(Cue the cheering?)

Some of the messaging here has been rapidly deteriorating and it is no longer enjoyable to participate. I'm particularly bored with the insipid drivel of those who have nothing of interest to contribute, and so repeatedly resort to the tired "Wiseguy is Moonpie" nonsense and other attacks.  I was preparing a "Wiseguy 101" for today. But I was so sickened by a vulgar and vomitus, depraved and disgraceful entry from yesterday, that I decided to call it a wrap now.(Cue more cheering?)  I can't comprehend the darkness that would cause someone's mind to think those words were humorous, clever, creative, worthy. So reprehensible she should probably be banned permanently. If you missed it, you're fortunate.  I knew when I jumped in here, that the Wiseguy tone is not for everyone.  I'm ok with that. I'm reminded of what a former publisher once told me: "Some readers may not like you. But they are going to read you"! From the commenting of others, that seems to have been the case here also.  So thanks for giving this retired, old sports writer a platform to express his disappointment and frustration with mediocrity. And shout in his own way, Go Illini!!!  

jjohnson wrote on March 20, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Never a problem with your writing, wiseguy, only with the times when it did not accurately reflect that to which you were commenting. 

cowpie needs a hobby wrote on March 20, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Good riddance to bad rubbish. Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya. WIth such thin skin, that is liable to leave a mark.

Hopefully some of the Tate derangement syndrome will now drift into the backgound and discusion about Illinois bball and football can recommence.