Illinois Hires Oklahoma State’s Underwood As New Coach

March 18, 2017
Former Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood reacts to a call against his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Ames, Iowa.

Former Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood reacts to a call against his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Ames, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood is leaving Stillwater for Illinois after just one season, calling the chance to lead the Fighting Illini a "once in a lifetime opportunity." Underwood spent three successful seasons at Stephen F. Austin before signing on to coach Oklahoma State for 2016-17. The Cowboys got off to a rough start to Big 12 play before rallying down the stretch to land an NCAA Tournament bid. Oklahoma State fell to seventh-seeded Michigan 92-91 on Friday, closing out Underwood's only season in Stillwater.

"We were looking for a proven winner who would build upon our proud tradition while developing an unmistakable identity for Illinois basketball. Brad's teams play a fast, aggressive style and show unyielding toughness," Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement announcing the hire Saturday. "They have a tremendous energy that I believe will ignite the Orange Krush and our fans to once again make State Farm Center one of the most intimidating venues in all of college basketball. Off the court, Brad builds strong, personal relationships with his student-athletes."

Underwood will be formally introduced in a press conference on Monday. He replaces John Groce, who was let go earlier this month. Multiple sources, including the News-Gazette, report Underwood will recieve a 6-year contract valued at more than $3 million per season.

The Fighting Illini went 95-75 in five seasons under Groce but made just one NCAA tournament appearance.

Oklahoma State finished fifth in the Big 12 with a 9-9 conference record in a season where the Big 12 was rated as the best conference in the nation. That was a dramatic improvement for the Cowboys, who went 3-15 in league play a year ago. Oklahoma State came on strong during the second half of the season, winning 10 of 11 games from Jan. 21-Feb. 25, which included a pair of five-game winning streaks.

Underwood, 53, spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at nearby Western Illinois and spent one season as the associate head coach at both Kansas State and South Carolina before landing at Stephen F. Austin. 

Underwood is 109-27 as a Division I coach and reached the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons.

"The players, fans and administration at Oklahoma State have been absolutely incredible, and I want to thank them for the support they've given me and my family over the last year," Underwood said. "However, during my time at Western Illinois, I always saw the Illinois coaching job as one of the truly best in the nation."

Story source: AP