CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Brad Underwood’s agent swears his client doesn’t make job decisions based on money. But nearly tripling his salary to an average of $3 million a year surely didn’t hurt in his decision to leave Oklahoma State for the University of Illinois.
As Underwood was formally introduced as Illinois’ new head men’s basketball coach Monday, details of his contract were released.
It’s a six-year deal worth $18 million with a pair of $600,000 retention bonuses. As he did when he hired Lovie Smith as Illinois’ football coach, AD Josh Whitman is bumping up the pool of money available for Underwood to pay assistant coaches.
Underwood has $850,000 available to pay his three on-court assistants, up from the $600,000 John Groce had. And he has another $550,000 for up to six support staff positions.
The recruiting budget, although unspecified, is more than enough, Underwood said. “We have every resource we need to be fabulous.”
The contract is subject to approval by the Board of Trustees, but Chancellor Robert Jones was involved in the hiring and the board was appraised of the numbers. So approval is considered a formality.
The contract runs through April 30, 2023.
Here are some other notes coming from Underwood’s first press conference:
Jamall Walker: Underwood said he has talked briefly with Jamall Walker, who is serving as interim coach, and will meet with him soon.
Walker was coaching the Illini team in an NIT game Monday night, at which Underwood and his family were to be introduced at halftime. Walker’s status is important because he’s viewed as instrumental in holding the current recruiting class together, especially East St. Louis big man Jeremiah Tilmon.
“In all fairness, this (Illini) team still has an opportunity to win games,” Underwood said. “I don’t want to be a distraction at this time. I told Jamall there will be a time and place when we can visit.”
Walker’s status will impact the overall makeup of Underwood’s coaching staff and he said Monday putting the rest of his coaching staff together is “a daily process.
“We’ll sort through all that we need to do there,” he said. “We will not have a good staff. We’ll have a great staff.”
Underwood said he’s already been in touch with current recruits who have signed letters of intent.
“It’s an on-going process,” he said. “We’ve reached out to each and every one of them. We’ve made contact. It’s a process of them getting to know me and introducing myself. As soon as possible we’ll get in front of them and talk about our vision and how we seem them being a part of that.”
His style: Underwood several times referred to his style of play and said influences from mentor coaches Bob Huggins (now at West Virginia) and Frank Martin (South Carolina) helped shape the way he likes to play.
Both of those coaches have their teams in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
“I think the biggest compliment is what (Duke coach) Mike Krzyzewski said at halftime,” of South Carolina’s victory over the Blue Devils on Sunday. “He said, ‘That’s the best defensive team I’ve seen all year.’
“There’s a sense of toughness that scares people, to be quite honest,” Underwood said. “I think it comes from the commitment by the head coach to work on that end and to emphasize it.”
Underwood said fans will “be proud of what goes on out there.”
“We’ll play hard, we’ll play the right way, play for each other and play for the name on the front of the jersey.
“I like to play up-tempo and in-your-face defensively. I like to take advantage of every option on the offensive end. We weren’t the biggest team at Oklahoma State but we were among the top 10 nationally in offensive rebounding.
“We like to play fast and we were among the top teams in scoring within the first seven seconds (of the shot clock). We’re a good shooting team so there’s a certain skill set we will recruit to.
“We will have an identity on both ends of the court and we will play with a lot of passion.”
Underwood will be whisked off to Chicago today and to St. Louis Tuesday to meet donors and boosters.