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Illinois Basketball hires Oklahoma State’s Brad Underwood as new head coach

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Underwood’s resume includes a 109-27 overall record and four NCAA Tournaments

Oklahoma State v Michigan Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

UPDATE (3:30 CST): Josh Whitman and the University of Illinois have made it official. Here are the statements that were included in the press release

Statement from Josh Whitman:

“I am excited to welcome Brad Underwood, his wife Susan, and their three children to the Fighting Illini family. 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. Brad's teams play a fast, aggressive style and show unyielding toughness. 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. His winning combination of strong Midwest values and tenacious work ethic are a perfect fit for our community and the Illini Nation.”

Statement from Brad Underwood:

"Coaching basketball at the University of Illinois is a once-in-lifetime opportunity. 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. I can't wait to get started with our team. Next season can't get here fast enough for me!"

Underwood will be introduced as the head coach on Monday at the State Farm Center, and it’s fair to assume that he’ll in attendance at the team’s NIT matchup against Boise State.


According to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Oklahoma State’s Brad Underwood will soon be named the new head coach of Illinois Fighting Illini basketball. The deal is worth an estimated $18 million over six years.

In four seasons as a head coach, Underwood amassed a resume that includes a 109-27 overall record, three Southland Conference championships, and four NCAA Tournament appearances. Underwood’s coaching prowess became widely known in 2016 thanks to a brief Round of 32 run during his third and final season at Stephen F. Austin.

Underwood was named head coach of Oklahoma State following the 2015-16 season. In one year with the Cowboys, he guided the program to a 20-13 (9-9) record and No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament; their season ended on Friday following a 92-91 first round loss to Michigan.

Illinois will be required to pay Oklahoma State a buyout fee of $3 million to secure Underwood’s release from a five-year, $6.3 million deal.

Underwood will replace John Groce, who was fired on March 11 with a disappointing 95-75 record across five years in Champaign. Assistant coach Jamall Walker is currently leading the program on an interim basis in the NIT; it’s unknown at this time if he’ll be retained by the new regime. It seems Oklahoma State officials were just as surprised by this move as most of the nation was.

“Just spoke with an Oklahoma State official and was told Brad Underwood flew back with the team after Michigan game Friday, landing at 8 pm CT. There was no indication he was leaving. School official was stunned and learned about his hiring at Illinois via Twitter.”

Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer

Underwood, 53, received his first assistant coaching gig in 1993, when he joined Jim Kerwin’s staff at Western Illinois. After a ten years on the Leatherneck’s bench, Underwood got his first head coaching opportunity at Daytona Beach Community College, where he led the Falcons to a 70-24 mark between 2003-06.

Underwood returned to the Division-I ranks shortly thereafter to serve as an assistant under Bob Huggins and Frank Martin at Kansas State from 2006-2012. A coaching change in Manhattan resulted in a move to South Carolina, where he remained through the 2012-13 campaign.

Underwood was hired by Oklahoma State in 2016, and he quickly turned around a program that was dead in the water under former head coach Travis Ford. The Cowboys’ win total immediately jumped from 12 to 20, resulting in an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.

Here’s a more detailed year-by-year breakdown of Underwood’s head coaching career:

Brad Underwood’s Head Coaching History

Season Team Overall Conference Standing KenPom Postseason
Season Team Overall Conference Standing KenPom Postseason
2013-14 Stephen F. Austin 32-3 18-0 1st 69th NCAA Round of 32
2014-15 Stephen F. Austin 29-5 17-1 1st 51st NCAA Round of 64
2015-16 Stephen F. Austin 28-6 18-0 1st 41st NCAA Round of 32
2016-17 Oklahoma State 20-13 9-9 5th 23rd NCAA Round of 64

Illinois was clearly going after some bigger names during this job search, but the 2017-18 roster is one that seems poised for a return to the NCAA Tournament. There will obviously be an early learning curve for Underwood in the Big Ten, especially considering the fact that he has a career 3-12 record against ranked teams. But the national media seem to love this hire, and it’s hard to argue that Underwood isn’t a major upgrade from John Groce.