Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics

Holder Reveals He Was Ahead Of The Game

It didn't take Mike Holder long to target who he wanted to lead the Oklahoma State basketball program, and then he didn't waste any time in making it happen.

Over the last 48 hours Oklahoma State fans and basketball interests have wondered how OSU went from dismissing a coach Friday evening to having a new coach hired early Monday evening, especially a coach that had just seen his team ousted from the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon by Notre Dame 76-75 all the way up in Brooklyn, N.Y.

This is the same school that has had some long coaching searches, but during the introductory press conference amid balloons, a band, and some of the rowdier fans Gallagher-Iba has seen this season, the school's athletic director, Mike Holder, has learned some new methods. Holder said no disrespect to former coach Travis Ford, but he was very proactive.

"I can't say the exact time, but I knew quite a bit before we ever had an opening, that if it ever happened, I knew who was at the top of our list. I had a good plan in place, but Mike Tyson said ‘You know everybody has got a plan until you get hit in the mouth.’ I promise you, it's competitive out there for hiring coaches, either football or basketball," Holder explained.

"You don't sit back and interview on campus to entertain people. You might do that in the corporate world, you might do that in some of our sports, but that's not going to work in football and basketball. I knew exactly who we wanted at the top of our list, but I was afraid someone might beat us to the starting point."

Holder was diplomatic and courteous but he was also firm and deliberate. 

"I called Robert Hill (SFA athletic director) on Saturday, the day after [Stephen F. Austin] won their first round game and said, ‘I just want you to know I'm interested in your coach,’ and he wanted to know how interested. I said, ‘If we can get him on our campus and he's as impressive in person as what I've found out through second-hand information, he's going to be our next basketball coach,'" Holder said.

"He said, ‘I appreciate that, I only ask one thing from you: do not contact him until we lose in this tournament.’ I said, ‘Mr. Hill, you are talking to the right guy because I respect that relationship. I've been there. Some of those kids and all of the fans have thought about this forever and you are there at the moment of truth. You don't need to be distracted. It's hard enough when you are focused. Trust me, until that last game is played we are going to leave your coach alone to try to win games.’

"After they lost, all we wanted to know was how soon can [Underwood] get to Stillwater, Oklahoma, because we want to meet him and we don't think this is going to take very long. But you have to have something in place and that's what happened. I know everybody says, ‘Well you hire a coach in 48 hours?’ But if you don't you might not have a coach."

Holder is on a roll as it is clear he got his man in Josh Holliday to lead the Cowboys baseball program a few years ago as he had him stay in town after his interview. There is no doubt that even though he allowed Underwood to fly back to Nacogdoches and Stephen F. Austin Monday night to say good-bye, Underwood was back in Stillwater and checked in at Karsten Creek by the end of the night and ready to hit the ground running on Tuesday, so he got his man again.

He was his first choice and just about 24 hours after he became available.  

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