Brad Underwood's agent: 'Blown away' by Illini AD Josh Whitman

New Illini coach Brad Underwood's agent, Bret Just, discusses the negotiations with Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman

Bret Just was sitting in the parking lot of University of Dayton Arena on Wednesday night, waiting to watch his client Andy Enfield's Trojans play in the First Four, when he first received the call from Josh Whitman.

From there, discussions moved quickly between Brad Underwood's agent and the Illinois athletics director.

"The (first) conversation was pretty generic," Just told Illini Inquirer. "He said, 'I have an interest in Brad, tell me about him.' I first got into the personal stuff and then the professional stuff, how Brad's teams play and how he practices and his family. He asked me point blank if he'd be interested and I said 'yes.'"

Underwood, who was about to coach a first-round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan in his first year with Oklahoma State, had told Just -- a Chicago-based agent for CAA Sports -- during previous conversations that Illinois was a destination job for him. So Just continued discussions with Whitman (and other interested programs) without telling Underwood.  "He's always talked about this one in glowing terms," Just said. "I knew this one would get his attention. Then, of course, Josh played a big part. Your boss always does.

"I said, 'It's not about the money. It's about the fit and feel for Brad.' You don't go to Oklahoma State for a year thinking you're leaving. But in this profession, it's not March Madness on the court, it's coaching carousel stuff. I know this was one that Brad would always be very, very interested in."

Just and Whitman then had "multiple conversations" through Thursday and Friday, discussing contract terms to make sure they were on the same page. Just didn't tell Underwood of those discussions until Friday night just minutes after Oklahoma State lost to Michigan 92-91.

"We knew we would have to move fast. The hardest thing with this is someone tells someone and then it sets a fire. Then if it doesn't work out, you got a problem going back to Oklahoma State."

Oklahoma State paid Underwood $1 million for his first season with the promise that OSU athletics director Mike Holder would renegotiate after the season if Underwood won. He turned the Cowboys from a 12-20 in Travis Ford's last season to a 20-12 team in his first season. But negotiations with Oklahoma State never got traction.

Whitman met with Underwood for the first time on Saturday morning and they quickly came to an agreement. Underwood flew back to Oklahoma State to tell Holder the news. Reports have surfaced that Underwood felt disrespected by Holder for offering him such a smaller salary than his predecessor Ford. Just refutes the notion. "They're fine. They're great," Just said. "Mike was even terrific when Brad told him the news. It obviously was shocking. The problem is that, first of all, it happens so fast. We're talking about literally he met with Josh on Saturday morning and on Saturday afternoon you're going to tell your AD , 'See you later; I'm going to take this opportunity.' There was no hostility. That was complete nothing, completely overblown. MIke Holder took Brad Underwood from Stephen F. Austin ... and brought him to the Big 12. It's hard to begrudge a guy who gave you that opportunity."

But Just said he and Underwood were very impressed by Whitman, who has been a Division-I athletics director for just one year, for how he approached and executed his pursuit.

"Class," Just said. "Everything he said he was going to do, he did. The process. The thoroughness. The response time. Everything was top-notch. I've dealt with a lot of ADs in the last six years, I just thought his integrity you could just feel it right away. You just could. You saw it up there on the stage today. Big-time presence. Pride. Brad's one of the most prideful guys I know. I couldn't be more impressed and blown away by Josh and his vision of this place."

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