CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Brad Underwood of Oklahoma State, who has taken his team to the NCAA Tournament all four seasons as a Division I head coach, is the new head men’s basketball coach at the University of Illinois.
Multiple sources including the Herald & Review, were reporting Underwood’s hire Saturday afternoon. But visual proof was provided in the picture AD Josh Whitman posted on Twitter that showed Underwood, Whitman and others jammed onto donor Shad Khan’s private jet as they flew from Stillwater, Okla., to Champaign.
Underwood will be introduced as Illinois’ 18th head men’s basketball coach at noon on Monday.
Underwood, whose record in four seasons as a Division I head coach was 109-27, replaces John Groce, who was fired last Saturday after a five-season record of 96-75.
Assistant coach Jamall Walker, who has served as interim head coach since Groce was fired, will remain on Underwood’s staff. Walker is seen as a key component to holding together the 2017-18 Illini recruiting class, which ranks 9th in the country according to Scout.com.
The surprise is that Underwood is leaving Oklahoma State after just one season on the job. The Cowboys were 20-13 this season and lost a first-round NCAA Tournament thriller on Friday, falling 92-91 to Michigan.
But Underwood was the lowest paid head coach in the Big 12. He made $1 million this past season after signing a five-year, $6.3 million deal last March, when he was hired to replace Travis Ford, who’d been fired.
“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,” Whitman said in a statement released through the university.
“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.”
Underwood’s teams are known for their up-tempo free-wheeling style.
In his one season at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys’ offense jumped from 66 points a game to 85.7 points, eighth best in the nation.
Prior to his one season at Oklahoma State, Underwood was head coach for three seasons at Stephen F. Austin, where he posted a record of 89-14 including NCAA Tournament appearances all three seasons.
In his first season, Stephen F. Austin went 18-0 in the Southland Conference and Underwood was named the league’s coach of the year. That team was seeded 12th in the South Region and Underwood was in charge as Stephen F. Austin upset Shaka Smart and Virginia Commonwealth in an opening round game.
In the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Stephen F. Austin upset West Virginia and in the process Underwood beat coach Bob Huggins, for whom he worked as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Kansas State.
Then Stephen F. Austin was eliminated by Notre Dame. Underwood’s team led by five with two minutes to go but the Irish scored the final six points, winning on a tip-in with 1.2 seconds to play.
Prior to his stay at Stephen F. Austin, Underwood had been on the staff at Kansas State and South Carolina as well as a junior college head coach. He also spent 10 seasons as an assistant at Western Illinois University.
“Coaching basketball at the University of Illinois is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Underwood said in a statement. “During my time at Western Illinois, I always saw the Illinois coaching job as one of the truly best in the nation.”
Underwood and his wife have three children, a son and two daughters.
“I tell the story all the time, but my son’s first jersey was Brian Cook’s,” Underwood said, referring to Illinois’ No. 5 all-time leading scorer.
“I can’t wait to get started with our team. Next season can’t get here fast enough for me.”
ESPN reported Underwood's contract is for six years worth more than $3 million per season.