Brad Underwood remembers looking out of the locker room and through the double doors, peaking on the afternoon of Dec. 30 at the sellout crowd arriving for the Oklahoma State Big 12 opener with West Virginia.
"I thought it was great, I kept looking out," Underwood said of the first sellout crowd in his new tenure as head hoops coach for the Cowboys. "I was happy for our players and happy for our fans."
Nobody has encouraged the return of the rowdy in Gallagher-Iba Arena more than Underwood. He has taken orders at a local fast food restaurant. He has moved his weekly call-in coaches show back into fraternities and sororities on the campus.
He makes appearances at civic clubs, shoot videos (not in a singlet, this is basketball), but what he has done that has been most effective is coach his team to a 17-9 record overall and after an 0-6 start in the conference to an amazing streak of seven wins in the past eight games including four wins on the road, a rousing blowout victory in front of a near sellout crowd at home over Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, and a win in the last home game last Saturday against Texas.
Now, Oklahoma State with a win over Bedlam rival Oklahoma on Saturday can come all the way back to even at 7-7 in the Big 12 Conference with four league games left, two at home and two on the road.
How excited are Cowboy fans? As of this afternoon only about 200 tickets remained for the game against the Sooners.
Recently, Underwood told me that he had become realistic about getting the sold-out crowds in Gallagher-Iba.
"I realize now it is going to take some time," he said. "This fan base has been through a lot, but I also know basketball is in the DNA of this school and that the fans will come back. They want to see teams that play with all-out hustle, teams that play tough defense, teams that play with a lot of excitement."
What do you know? Underwood has delivered and I think you can count on big crowds for not only Saturday with Oklahoma but also the games left at home with Texas Tech and then league powerhouse Kansas, which can secure a 13th straight Big 12 championship Saturday at Baylor.
Underwood is not taking anything for granted and he delivered a message while talking with the media on Friday that I'm sure he has delivered to his team. The Sooners are still a good team, even without standout Jordan Woodard they beat Texas on Tuesday.
They still play tough defense and Lon Kruger hasn't forgotten how to get a team ready especially for a rivalry that Underwood conceded that OU had owned prior to his first meeting with Oklahoma as coach, a win on the road Jan. 30, the Cowboys first in Norman since 2004. Now he'd like to complete the first sweep of the Sooners by the Pokes since, you guessed it, 2004.