Illinois’ vacant head coaching position has been filled, with a surprising pick no less.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, the Illini have tabbed Oklahoma State’s Brad Underwood as the program’s men’s basketball coach. The hire was officially announced by the Illinois men’s basketball Twitter account.
— Illini Basketball (@IlliniMBB) March 18, 2017
This hire comes as a major surprise, as not only was Oklahoma State bounced from the NCAA Tournament just one day ago, however there were never any rumors or mentions of Underwood looking to move up from his position.
Underwood will come to the Illini after one one season as the Cowboys head coach. His one season, however, yielded a 20-13 record in Stillwater and a NCAA Tournament berth.
“I am excited to welcome Brad Underwood, his wife, Susan, and their three children to the Fighting Illini family,” Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said in a statement. “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.”
There was no telling when or where Whitman negotiated to make Underwood the coach, as Underwood had Oklahoma State playing Michigan in the first round of the Big Dance. Right after news of the hire broke, Whitman tweeted this photo from his Twitter account.
— Josh Whitman (@IlliniAD) March 18, 2017
Underwood’s ability to make the NCAA Tournament may have made him a prime target for Illinois. He took a 12-20 team and earned a tourney berth in his only season at OSU. Furthermore, Underwood made the NCAA Tournament in each of his three seasons at Stephen F. Austin University.
Underwood has a 109-26 record as a head coach in the NCAA and will inherit an Illinois recruiting class touting three 4-star commits.
In any case, Whitman has made his second high-priority hire at Illinois. The first came with former NFL coach Lovie Smith, and now he gets a seasoned NCAA Tournament coach, wasting no time in making the hire.
It took Josh Whitman 7 days between firing John Groce and hiring new #Illini HC Brad Underwood. He moves fast.
— Peter Bailey-Wells (@pbaileywells) March 18, 2017
Whitman still has one more hire to make, as the Illini women’s basketball team is still without a coach.