Underwood leaves Oklahoma State for IL

Illinois names Oklahoma State's Brad Underwood as new head coach

Reports began to surface Saturday afternoon that Brad Underwood had been hired away from OSU to become the new coach at the University of IL.

Underwood, 53, offers hope for a program that has missed the last four NCAA tourneys. IL hasn't gone that long without a Big Dance appearance since missing the event from 1964-1980. They talk about the recruiting challenges ahead for the new coach and the need for a greater recruiting presence in the Chicagoland area, AD Josh Whitman's continuing commitment to reshaping his department, Underwood bringing a clear offensive identity to the program, and more.

Underwood's teams play an aggressive style. Underwood will just be a fan for that one and doesn't plan to be back in the same spot once he roams the sidelines at the State Farm Center. He was on the Iba coaching tree, had midwestern values, and seemed the flawless fit.

After initially looking like they would overpay for another mediocre coach, Cal's Cuonzo Martin, the Illini have made the best hire of this offseason so far, by hiring Brad Underwood away from Oklahoma State after just one season. The Pokes played an exciting brand of hoops, ranking eighth in the nation in scoring (85.7 ppg). Underwood compiled an 89-14 record at SFA, tied with Brad Stevens (Butler, 2008-10) for the most wins by a head coach in his first three seasons at an NCAA school. In between those opportunities, Underwood was entrenched in the state of Illinois for 10 seasons, as an assistant coach for Jim Kerwin at Western Illinois from 1992-2003. He previously spent three seasons at Stephen F. Austin, making the tournament each season.

There are unknowns about Underwood, such as his ability to draw big recruits, but for the most part his hiring at IL is receiving rave reviews.

Around 12:30 p.m. Friday, OSU led MI 52-46 in the second half of an NCAA Tournament game in Indianapolis, and the future of Cowboy basketball looked bright.

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Even if it's his first ay on the job. He called the chance to lead the Fighting Illini a "once in a lifetime opportunity".

Bench: Boise State B, IL C+. At the very least, IL basketball feels nationally relevant right now, which is at least going to be a short-term win with donors.

"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 a year ago", Underwood said. "All I ask, you think about the financial challenges I laid out for you, that I face, and I'll do the same for you". "The program is going to continue to move forward and I thoroughly enjoyed my year there and wish them nothing but continued success, which that program will continue to have". I can't wait to get started with our team. "Next season can't get here fast enough for me!" Who among us wouldn't take the better financial deal? The basketball venue has undergone a recent renovation.

Over the past decade, few athletic departments in the Big Ten or the major conferences have had worse stretches in football and men's basketball than IL. Plus, the recruiting base is solid, too.

The roster will take some big hits, however. It would cost a Big 12 team $6-million to come in before March of 2018 and steal Underwood. Forward Jeremiah Tilmon and point guard Trent Frazier headline the class, which now has four commits. Can Underwood hold that class together?

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