Brad Underwood: The First 100 Days (Part 2)

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

New Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood was introduced as the Cowboys head coach on March 22, and hit the ground running. The past 100 days (as of today) 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’s Terry Tush to visit about his first 100 days at Oklahoma State. Here is the second part of that interview (check back later as Underwood provides his analysis of each Cowboys player).

How do you plan to bring the rowdy back to Gallagher-Iba Arena?
Underwood: I think that Oklahoma State is one of the two schools in this conference that have tradition, and that goes back to Mr. Iba. People in this generation don’t understand the complete impact that Mr. Iba had on basketball. John Wooden won 11 national championships and that was easy to talk about, and that was based on wins.

Mr. Iba impacted so many because of his teachings, and the great coaches came to see him and they came to talk to him. Yeah, he won national championships but it was the way he taught the game that impacted the game so much.

Our fans are educated, [and] our fans are very dialed into basketball. It’s been fun because I’ve done a lot of the Cowboy Caravans [the last few months], and I ask everyone there, ‘How many of you have had a great memory in Gallagher-Iba Arena?’ And everyone raises their hands.

To answer your question, we have to start with the students. We need 4,500 students every single night in Gallagher-Iba. Give Bill [Self] and Kansas all the props, 12 straight championships. Do you know why? Number one, they have good players. Two, they work hard. And three, there are 16,600 [fans] every night. They have an incredible home court.

One of the most intimidating places on this planet in college sports, in any sport, is this arena. And that can be a difference maker. And it’s a difference maker not just during the competition, it’s a difference maker in recruiting. The students, 4,500 of them in that arena, make it electric, [and] make it energentic. Brad Underwood has to do a better job … has to do a better job of getting our students involved. I have to reach them, and I have to get out and get involved.

When you put 13,000 people in that arena the other stuff will follow. TV is dying for games in packed arenas. You can ask, ‘what comes first, the chicken or the egg?’ It’s the same with winning or the crowd? We’ve got to do it simultaneously. If we can get our students, the rest will come.

Part of that is bringing in non-conference opponents that fans want to see play. Please share with us your scheduling philosophy.
Underwood: Well, I believe you build a program through scheduling. What I mean by that is that we recruiting using [our schedule]. Players want to play in big games, they want to play against other good competition.

Now are all of the 12 or 13, whatever we have, non-league games going to be against high-level opponents? No, they’re not. That’s not realistic because it doesn’t work that way. The model doesn’t allow for that. Are we going to play home games against good people? Absolutely.

The Wichita State game [that will be play Dec. 17 at Intrust Arena in Wichita) makes sense. It’s in our region. The game in Wichita is in an 18,000-seat arena, our fans can get to it, and the return game‘s right here on campus (on Dec. 9, 2017).

We’re always going to play in a top-level, multi-team event. This year happens to be Maui [the Maui Invitational, Nov. 21-23]. That way you get quality opponents on national television on a neutral site, and those games are great.

Are we going to do our very best every year to play high major opponents here? Absolutely. The one thing we never have to worry about is strength of schedule, [and] we never have to worry about RPI because our league makes that. But I also believe that players want to play in those games, and we need to be prepared for conference and postseason. All of those things play into each other. Are they all going to be [against top teams]? They’re not. That’s realistic.

What does this year’s non-conference schedule look like?
Underwood: It’s late now [for the upcoming season], but we’ve tried very hard to find another high major opponent at home and we couldn’t find it. That’s why the Wichita State game was the next best thing. We’ve got Arkansas [coming to Gallagher-Iba Arena on Jan. 28, 2017 for the Big 12/SEC Challenge], which to me is a home run.

It’s a very, very challenging schedule because Maui is so good. You return a game to Maryland, you return a game to Tulsa. We’ve got a tough schedule, [and] too many of them on the road, but that’s okay. We’ll get it right. We’ll get it right.

We’re working right now on next year’s schedule. Knowing that next year we’ll go on the road for the Big 12/SEC Challenge, so we already have one built in game.  If we can get seven or eight high level games between the multi teams then we’re heading down the right path.

Josh Holliday took his baseball team to the College World Series and Chris Young’s women’s tennis team played for the national championship. Can the basketball team benefit from the success of OSU’s other teams?
Underwood: The administration here has done an incredible job of giving us all as coaches incredible facilities. I think I’ve met all the coaches, [and] I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a better bunch of people as coaches, and it’s easy to see why they win. As much as we have great facilities, and we have to have them, but people win.

When the process of work and the process is put in place, sometimes you look up at the scoreboard and you don’t have enough points on it but the process is right. And over the course of time, winning is going to happen. Winning happens and it becomes very contagious, just as losing can become very infectious.

The change was made in men’s basketball, and I’m the blessed one who gets to be here, but we’re the only one that has not achieved highly. Look at everybody else. You can go right on down the list.  Everybody is successful. We’ve talked to our players about that. We’ve talked about it as [basketball] coaches.

I’ve enjoyed the Cowboy Caravan because I get to speak with those guys. Those guys all have tremendous intellect, and I’d be foolish being the new guy here not to want to go talk to [women’s basketball coach] Jim Littell, not to want to go talk to [softball coach] Kenny [Gajewski] because he’s only been here a year, and to find out what that culture is about. Spend time with Mike [Gundy]. It would be foolish.

I think that’s what makes coaching in college towns fun. I think it’s a vibrant part of the community, and we do get to know each other. Mike [Holder] condones that, [he] gets it. Every chance I get I talk to [wrestling coach] John [Smith], every chance I get because I learn something every time I talk to him. It may not necessarily pertain to my sport but it pertains to the overall picture of success.

There’s nothing more contagious then winning, and I couldn’t ask to be in a better spot. I’d rather be where everybody is winning than where you’re not. We’re provided with a great deal, and it’s all about the people. It’s about the full stadiums, and it’s about going to tennis and seeing 2,000 people there [at the Cowgirls national championship match in Tulsa]. That’s awesome. That’s the pride that happens within a university. That’s what makes good players want to keep coming here, and keeps it rolling.

Absolutely, I get where we’re at right now, but it’s exciting knowing that everybody else has achieved, not just some success but they’re competing on the national scene for national titles, and that’s awesome.

What else do you want to say to OSU Cowboys basketball fans?
Underwood: I say this all the time, I’m blessed to be here. I don’t want to de-emphasize the history here, the culture here. I’m probably going to talk about it too much, but that’s okay because it means a lot and I want that to be one of the bases that we build this thing on.

It’s not one person. We’ve got to work extremely hard, for as good as program as this has been over the history of basketball, to not have a former group of players and coaches and managers, and people who have sweat equity in the program, and have them a part, that’s a shame. Great programs should welcome and have those former players feel welcome to come back. That’s very, very important as well.

Other than spending time with the athletes and spending time with all the Suttons – Scott, Sean, and Coach [Eddie Sutton] – meeting the former players and visiting with them and hearing their stories is special. We can never forget who we are, and we can’t forget the players and the coaches and the people who did this before because to grow it we had to have a starting point.

We’ve had some unbelievable, influential people along the way, and that’s going to make us great. It’s about us understanding who we are, and being able to fill that stadium. With a campus of 25,000 students, 11,000 of them buy athletic passes and if we can’t get 4,500 of them [to help fill up Gallagher-Iba Arena] then I haven’t done a very good job of making myself known to them. It takes everybody. It’s going to take everybody to make this thing special. If that happens then recruiting follows, then TV follows and success follows. Then we’re all in a position where we have a lot of fun. 

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