Illini fans have suffered through mediocrity for a long time now. While the men’s basketball team had a decent season, it was not enough to make the NCAA tournament this year.
With the tournament hopes shattered, former head coach John Groce was fired and interim coach Jamall Walker took over for this year’s remaining NIT games. But the question quickly loomed over Champaign-Urbana as to who would be the next Fighting Illini head coach. Well soon that was answered.
On March 18th, the Illini hired former Stephan F. Austin and OSU coach Brad Underwood to be their next head coach. Underwood (53) has a 109-27 career record as a head coach and has been coaching in some form (head or assistant) since 1988. His head coaching career includes the one year this year at OSU as well as Stephen F. Austin and Dodge City Community College; he was an assistant for 11 years at Western Illinois as well as Kansas State and South Carolina.
It was pretty shocking to the OSU community when Underwood left the program after one year. Though the team had an up-and-down season, the future of the team looked good with Underwood at the helm as they boasted a top-ranked offense. But Underwood departed OSU as there were talks about him not feeling appreciated there and apparent disputes between him and OSU Athletic Director, Mike Holder.
Within a day after OSU’s tourney game vs. Michigan, Underwood was hired by the Fighting Illini.
“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.” -Illini Athletic Director Josh Whitman to ESPN
Underwood got the promotion he wanted, his contract lines up to be a six-year deal at $3,000,000 a year. He had four years left on his OSU deal and was making a third of what he will make with the Illini. Underwood expressed the excitement he has at the opportunity to work with a big-time program like the Illini as he was officially introduced Monday in a press conference.
“Coaching basketball at the University of Illinois is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…” -New Illini head coach Brad Underwood to ESPN
Can the Illini recruit more talent and gear up for a tournament run next season? I think if things go right they can.