Once recruited to play at Oklahoma State, head basketball coach Brad Underwood is now part of the Cowboys family.
Kansas Jayhawks head basketball coach Bill Self didn’t succeed in his first recruiting job. Self played for Oklahoma State University from 1981-1985, and while a player in Stillwater, Okla., he got a chance to recruit current Cowboys head basketball coach, Brad Underwood. During Underwood’s visit to Stillwater, Self was his campus tour guide.
“Eskimo Joe’s was a part of the recruiting visit, and sorority row,” Underwood, who Oklahoma State hired in March, said. “Bill took me out, we joke and kid all the time that he wasn’t that good of a recruiter back then because I didn’t come here.”
The reason behind Underwood deciding not to attend school at Oklahoma State is because then Cowboys head coach Paul Hansen was on his way out the door. Underwood, instead, chose to play his collegiate basketball at Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan.
Before he undertakes his first season as Cowboys head coach, Underwood admitted that coaching against Self twice a year will be extremely difficult.
“When you win twelve straight championships (Big 12 regular season titles), it’s never easy coaching against friends and I had to do that this year in the NCAA tournament (against) a mentor, Bob Huggins of West Virginia.”
Before he accepted the Oklahoma State job roughly three months ago, Underwood’s Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin defeated Huggins’ Mountaineers in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Underwood said maintaining that competitive edge, coaching against friends, is extremely difficult. For 40 minutes, focus has to stay on the players, and personal relationships have to be pushed to the background.
Underwood has had several extremely influential people in his life. He mentioned former Western Illinois head coach Jim Kerwin, who Underwood worked under as an assistant coach for a decade. Underwood also acknowledged Jack Hartman, a former assistant coach at Oklahoma State and Underwood’s coach during his time as a player in Manhattan.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Underwood said. “Everybody’s a winner. All those coaches have one thing in common, and that’s winning.”
Throughout his evolution as a coach, Underwood has taken ideas from all of his influences.
“I’ve learned some things I liked, I’ve learned some things that I don’t like,” Underwood said.
The challenge as a coach is applying those philosophies and tips from other coaches, and manipulating them so they fit within the personalities of the staff and players on the team. Underwood’s challenge in 2016 will be getting the most out of his players. To survive the Big 12 gauntlet, Underwood’s Cowboys will have to play to their fullest capabilities in hopes of earning a berth in the 2017 NCAA tournament. Changing the culture of a program doesn’t happen overnight, but Oklahoma State’s hiring of Underwood is a step in the right direction.