Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood leaving for Illinois qualifies as a stunning piece of news, and it occured fewer than 24 hours after the Cowboys lost their NCAA Tournament first-round game to Michigan on Friday.
Underwood spent one season in Stillwater after serving as Stephen F. Austin’s head coach for the previous three seasons.
According to ESPN, Oklahoma State found out about Underwood’s departure via Twitter.
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“It shocks me,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I think it would shock most people because obviously Brad was on a roll, I thought, in Stillwater. And a lot of great things have transpired in the short time he’s been there.
“Certainly the program is in better shape than it was a year ago. I’m sure they’ll respond very favorably to this. But it is a shock.
“You see a lot of coaching changes across America, but very rarely do you see one after just one year. … Illinois is a great basketball job. It’s one of the better jobs in the Big Ten. If you look at recruiting base and institution, location, exposure, budget. There’s a lot of things about it that is very, very attractive.”
Self knows both schools. He came to Kansas from Illinois after the 2003 season, and he’s a graduate of Oklahoma State, where he once served as an assistant.
At Oklahoma State, Underwood signed a five-year deal worth $6.3 million and earned $1 million in his first season, plus a $35,000 bonus for making the NCAA Tournament.
Underwood was to make $1.1 million in 2018 and escalate up to $1.6 million by 2021, a low figure in the Big 12.
Presumably, the contract would have been reworked by Oklahoma State as rumors swirled about other schools’ interest in Underwood, but the Cowboys won’t get that chance.
Underwood’s annual salary at Stephen F. Austin was $400,250.
The Cowboys had to pay former coach Travis Ford a $3.9 million lump sum in a settlement agreement after he was fired.
Underwood owes Oklahoma State $2 million for leaving before the end of his five-year deal. If he had left for another Big 12 school before the end of the 2018 season, he would have owed Oklahoma State $6 million.
Underwood’s name came up as a possible replacement for Kim Anderson at Missouri, but that job went to California coach Cuonzo Martin.
On the periphery was Kansas State. Underwood played at Kansas State and served as an assistant under former coach Frank Martin.
After Kansas State’s loss to Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, coach Bruce Weber was asked if he wanted to return and if he expects to return.
“Oh, no one’s ever told me anything,” Weber said. “I don’t know anything. But I like K-State. My wife loves it here. We’ve got a good group.”
Some Kansas State fans wanted the Wildcats to hire Underwood last year, and now that he’s been whisked away by Illinois, did K-State lose another opportunity to hire the popular coach?