Brad Underwood: The First 100 Days

Oklahoma State head basketball coach Brad Underwood has been in charge of the Cowboys program for 100 days. What's it been like as he tries to resurrect the program? GoPokes.com's Terry Tush recently sat down with Underwood, and here's part of that conversation.

New Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood isn’t so “new” anymore. He was formally introduced as the Cowboys head coach on March 22, and hit the ground running. The past 100 days (as of tomorrow) have been a whirlwind for Underwood and his coaching staff.

“Fabulous. Hectic. Fun. Not a lot of sleep,” Underwood said when asked about his first 100 days in leading the OSU basketball program.

After spending much of April and May on the road recruiting, the schedule slowed down a little bit throughout June as the 52-year-old Underwood and his coaching staff spent much of the month getting settled into their new offices, and took care of getting their families moved to Stillwater.

But that reprieve is going to be short lived as July starts one of the busiest recruiting months of the year for college coaches.

Underwood, who led Stephen F. Austin to a 89-14 record and three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in his three years at the Southland Conference school, was gracious enough to sit down with GoPokes.com’s Terry Tush to visit about his first 100 days at Oklahoma State. Here is a portion of that interview (check back later to read more from Underwood).

What have the first 100 days been like for you?
Underwood: Fabulous. Hectic. Fun. Not a lot of sleep. There are a lot of one-word adjectives that you could use, and yet I think that every job, every time you step into a new situation, there’s no manuscript or there’s no set this is what you have to do the first 100 days. I think every program, every situation, is different, and yet I feel like we’ve had a great 100 days of building relationships with former players.

I think we’ve had an off-the-chart [start], and this is a tribute to my staff, and I keep using the term getting caught up. We didn’t have to go replace a bunch of spots but we did have to get caught back up with 17- and 18-year-olds. We’ve had a spectacular month of unofficial [visits] with kids coming to our campus and that’s a tribute to Lamont [Evans], Mike {Boynton Jr.) and Danny [Henderson]. Those guys have done yeoman’s works, and we all know that the life-blood of the program is recruiting.

I’m a big relationship guy. That stuff is very, very important to me. I’m not going to do this by myself, [and] the players aren’t going to do it by themselves. We’re a community. That side of things, because of the job our staff has done, has been able to allow me to go tour the state, meet people and shake hands, doing the things that I enjoy.  We’ve been very well received, [and] that’s an awesome feeling. That’s a tremendous feeling.

What has the staff accomplished being back on campus throughout June?
Underwood: I always shift a little bit to the personal side because that’s the last thing that happens. We all jump into a recruiting period, and everybody flies around and we’re everywhere, and then you come back in May and now you handle your personal side.

Overall, June was a successful month. In our team camp we had 100 teams, and now we’re all finally trying to get settled, get moving trucks here, and yet sitting down as a collective group and it’s still been pretty challenging because we don’t have everybody here. But we’re slowly getting there.  June has slowed a little just because of the frantic pace, and running guys everywhere; we’re not allowed to be out recruiting so that slows things down.

So what’s next?
Underwood: We’re getting our personal side handled, and we’ve been focused on July recruiting. We know that’s arguably the busiest month of the year, and I think the most important thing we’ve done this month is our individual workouts with our players. We’re establishing our foundation of workouts, of what we’re going to teach, what’s important, our emphasis on the weight room, all those things that are the base of what we’re going to be about. I think we’ve tried very hard, and this is an every day deal, we’ve tried to establish the standard. What’s the standard of success here? We don’t know that yet. We’re not there. That’s not a 100-day fix, that’s a constant.

Overall, I think our first 100 days couldn’t have gone any better or smoother from the reception to the relationship with players to the recruiting aspect. I think we’ve put ourselves in a position to continue to move forward in a positive way.

What have you enjoyed the most over your first 100 days?
Underwood: Without question, meeting the people [who are Oklahoma State Cowboys fans]. That sounds cliché-ish, and I don’t want it to be that because it’s a lot more than that. We talk about relationships a lot, we talk about family a lot in our program… those are real. Those are real terms that we use. So for me to be able to meet as many people as we can possibly meet and to touch those people is important. The reception has been great. That may be 1B.

If there’s a 1A, it’s been getting to know and understand our players, and find out what their goals are.  We’ve got really good people in our program, and finding out a little more about them has been enlightening and it’s been fun. Make no mistake, those relationships with them are the most important thing.

Meeting the people, the people in the program, the people in the community, that’s how we’re going to thrive, and what I think is the most important aspect of our overall program.

What’s been the most challenging over the last 100 days?
Underwood: I think any time you take over a new situation, I’m one that wants to observe, sit back and observe. You want to see how things work, and how this happens and that happens. That’s gone very smooth.

From the recruiting side of things we feel like we’ve made up ground, but that’s been the most time consuming part of it. I don’t think it’s anything real negative. You have to figure out the inner workings of an athletic department are fun and factor that into the recruiting. Those two things are what I sit back and observe. You have to take some time because you jump right into recruiting [after being hired].

I don’t think there’s been anything terribly frustrating. Everything has been so smooth. Mike [Holder] has made everything very smooth. As far as recruiting, everybody says when you take a job you don’t create relationships over night. The hardest part of this has just been creating in a short amount of time the relationships to get involved with these young guys, and again a lot of that falls back on our staff.

That’s been my biggest challenge in having to manage, and make the time to meet each one of those assistant coaches [potential recruits]. He’s got a list of seven guys, and he’s got a list of seven guys, and I’m calling all of their people and this and that, and that’s a very, very monumental time-consuming job. But it’s gone great.

You know that you have a pair of the best guards in the Big 12, and you have some very athletic wings. But it’s tough to win without big men. How do you attract big men to Oklahoma State?
Underwood: We were the smallest team in the NCAA Tournament the last three years [at Stephen F. Austin]. Do I enjoy that? Night in and night out I know if you’d put Stephen F. Austin in the Big 12, night in and night out it’s going to take it’s toll.

But we’ve got good players, we’re going to continue to recruit really good players. Do we need some size? Absolutely. Is that a priority? Absolutely. Is it a must to win? Golden State just played five guards. I think I want skilled players. I’m not going to get wrapped up just so we look good in a warm-up line or in the airport.

We’re going to put good players on the floor who can do multiple things. That’s my biggest priority in recruiting. I think hard work in today’s world is a learned skill, [and] I want guys that do that. I want guys that know how to do that. I think character wins. The year we beat VCU [in the NCAA Tournament] we were probably the most un-athletic team in America and we went out and beat one of the most athletic.

I think there are a lot of factors that go into recruiting, not just size. But, yes you have to have some, and you’ve got to be able to protect the rim. When I played [at Kansas State from 1984 to 1986], it was the Big Eight at that time, everybody had a 7-footer. If you didn’t have a 7-footer, you couldn’t win. I think we were the only school in the league at K-State that didn’t have one.

So I think times have changed, but I understand that we’ve got to have them. We’re literally all over the world, we’re going to recruit internationally, know that you’ve got to have some.  We may have to play with more competitive fight because we’re not as big this year, but it’s not going to be the reason we don’t win.

(Editor's note: Please check back for more from Terry Tush’s conversation with Brad Underwood about his first 100 days at Oklahoma State.)


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