Kansas State University

Frank Martin on new OSU coach Brad Underwood: He’s a program-builder

Brad Underwood (right) guided Stephen F. Austin to success as the men’s basketball coach. Former K-State coach Frank Martin believes he’ll do the same for Oklahoma State.
Brad Underwood (right) guided Stephen F. Austin to success as the men’s basketball coach. Former K-State coach Frank Martin believes he’ll do the same for Oklahoma State. The Associated Press

Frank Martin won’t need to watch Brad Underwood’s introductory news conference to learn how excited he is to be Oklahoma State’s new basketball coach.

He knows Underwood, once Martin’s assistant at Kansas State, has coveted the job for years.

For as long as they have been friends, Martin says Underwood has expressed admiration for the Cowboys and their basketball program. Martin doesn’t know if Underwood has a dream job, but he concedes Oklahoma State could be it.

“There are two schools that, from the day I met Brad, when he spoke about them passion would just jump out of him,” Martin, now South Carolina’s coach, said by phone Tuesday. “One was obviously Kansas State. The other was Oklahoma State. There are so many natural ties there for him. I am ecstatic for Brad.”

The ties date back 32 years, when Underwood took a recruiting visit to Stillwater, Okla., as a guard out of Independence Community College. Kansas coach Bill Self, then an OSU player, was his host.

Underwood ended up choosing K-State over Oklahoma State, but he never stopped thinking about the Cowboys. His coach at K-State, Jack Hartman, played college basketball for them. And he thinks the world of former Oklahoma State coaches Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton.

“Brad is part of that tree of coaches,” Martin said. “They are all tied into one, and Brad continues to be part of it.”

Underwood, a McPherson, Kan., native, served as an assistant at K-State under Bob Huggins and Martin.

His connections to K-State will make for some interesting games in the series, particularly his first trip to Bramlage Coliseum next season.

Martin, who left K-State for South Carolina in 2012 after guiding the Wildcats to four NCAA Tournament trips, including an Elite Eight, expects entertaining games. He respects the job K-State coach Bruce Weber has done over the past four years, particularly his debut season in Manhattan when he guided the Wildcats to a share of the Big 12 championship.

“He led those kids,” Martin said. “They bought in, and they won.”

Underwood followed Martin to South Carolina for one season before taking over his own program at Stephen F. Austin, where he had a sensational three-year run. An 89-14 record with three conference championships and three trips to the NCAA Tournament made him one of the hottest coaches on the market.

It didn’t take him or Oklahoma State long to connect. The Cowboys fired Travis Ford on Friday. Underwood agreed to replace him Monday.

“There’s not enough adjectives to describe how excited I am for the opportunity to coach where some of the greatest coaches in the history of college basketball have cut their teeth,” Underwood said in a statement. “Oklahoma State has unparalleled tradition, history and culture.”

Martin thinks it is a perfect fit.

“He is going to be great. Brad is more than a basketball coach. Brad is a program-builder,” Martin said. “He gets involved in the community, he gets involved on campus, his family gets involved in the community. Those are the things you have to do to get people excited about driving two hours to come watch you play on a Tuesday night.

“Brad will get them there. He is going to recruit kids that represent the university well at all times. He is a guy who, when you are around him, he gets you excited about everything that is going on.

“Couple all that with the fact that he can really, really coach basketball, and there is no doubt he is going to have unbelievable success.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett