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A day after Oklahoma State’s season ended with a one-point loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, head coach Brad Underwood took the vacant position at Illinois on Saturday.
Underwood’s hiring occurs exactly one year after he coached 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin to a double-digit win over West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. Underwood’s tenure with Stephen F. Austin ended with a loss at the buzzer to Notre Dame and he took the Oklahoma State job shortly thereafter.
Underwood led the Cowboys to their sixth NCAA Tournament in the last eight years. In his lone season at Oklahoma State, Underwood was 20-13 and his team earned a bid by winning 10 of 11 games from Jan. 21-Feb. 25.
“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,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “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.”
At Oklahoma State, Underwood led the eighth-most prolific scoring team (85.7) and eighth-best 3-point shooting percentage (40.2 percent).
Underwood, 53, is 109-27 as a head coach with tournament wins over VCU and Notre Dame when he was at Stephen F. Austin. Before becoming a head coach, he served as an assistant with Western Illinois, Kansas State and South Carolina.
“Coaching basketball at the University of Illinois is a once-in-lifetime opportunity,” Underwood said in a statement. “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 last year. However, during my time at Western Illinois, I always saw the Illinois coaching job as one of the truly best in the nation. I want to thank Josh Whitman for the opportunity to join the Fighting Illini family and look forward to working with him to build a championship program.”
Underwood takes over for John Groce, who was let go last Saturday after an opening-round loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament. Groce was 96-75 in five seasons but the Fighting Illini have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2013.
Groce was replaced by assistant Jamall Walker on an interim basis. Walker coached an 82-57 win over Valparaiso in the opening round of the NIT on Tuesday.