Illinois has hired Oklahoma State head coach Brad Underwood, the school announced.
Underwood spent one season with the Cowboys, going 20-13 overall and 9-9 in the Big 12 before falling in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday. Prior to that, he spent three years as the head coach at Stephen F. Austin, going 89-14 and a stunning 53-1 in Southland play. He’s been to the NCAA tournament all four years that he’s been a head coach.
When Underwood left SFA for Oklahoma State he signed a five-year deal, but he was vastly underpaid when compared to the rest of the Big 12. He only made $1 million in his first year with the Cowboys. According to a source, Underwood’s salary will be more than doubled. Illinois will pay Oklahoma State a $3 million buyout.
“In searching for a new coach, we were looking for a proven winner who would build upon our proud tradition while developing an unmistakable identity for Illinois Basketball,” Illinois AD Josh Whitman said in a statement. “Brad’s teams play a fast, aggressive style and show unyielding toughness.”
Last week the Illini fired head coach John Groce, who had been with the school for five years and had gone four years without getting to the NCAA tournament. Groce was 95-75 in his five seasons.
“Coaching basketball at the University of Illinois is a once-in-lifetime opportunity,” Underwood said in a statement. “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. However, during my time at Western Illinois, I always saw the Illinois coaching job as one of the truly best in the nation. I want to thank Josh Whitman for the opportunity to join the Fighting Illini family and look forward to working with him to build a championship program.”
There are going to be two keys for Underwood. The first will be to find a way to keep Groce’s recruiting class, which is one of the best in the Big Ten and includes talents like Trent Frazier and Jeremiah Tilmon, but beyond that, he’s going to have to hire a staff that can recruit the Midwest, particularly Chicago, an area that’s never easy to navigate.
That should be doable, however, which is why Illini fans should be ecstatic about getting Underwood.