Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder and spokesman Larry Reece introduced Brad Underwood on Wednesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Here's what the newest Cowboy basketball coach had to say.
Opening Statement:"A couple of thank yous and I can't reiterate how much it means to me to have the Ibas here and how much they mean to me as a coach who has had to play for Coach Hartman; and who got to meet Coach Iba when he'd come to town and watch our practices and that means a great deal to me. To be out here on Eddie Sutton Court, one of the winning-est coaches of what our sport it about; to be standing here means a great deal. Thank you to President Hargis, Coach Holder, Joe Hall of the Board of Regents. This day means a great deal to me. It's actually a dream come true.
"I would be very remiss if I didn't bring up the people from Stephen F. Austin. Dr. Baker Pattillo, athletic director Robert Hill and all those players. To them I say thank you.
"You guys will find out with me that I get emotional sometimes, and that works both ways, so I apologize for some of that. Our season ended on Sunday night and in a really heartbreaking way for me. There's nothing like losing at the buzzer. When this happened, and it happened obviously very quickly, my dreams came true. I could not think of a better place to be – if I was not preparing my team for a Sweet 16 game tonight – than to be standing here in the greatest arena in America; in Gallagher-Iba, with the Iba name on it, on Eddie Sutton Court.
"Coach Iba stood for everything and his tree was so wide. He stood for discipline, he stood for everything that was about winning and Coach Hartman taught us all of those things. Then as a younger coach, watching Coach Sutton's team and how hard they guarded and how disciplined; the tenacity they played with. Watching them in practice, that was always a treat unto itself.
"In 2006, I'm with Bob Huggins at Kansas State and a coach on our staff was Frank Martin. I can remember telling Frank Martin, 'wait until you go to Gallagher-Iba. You've never seen anything like it. It's one of the loudest and most intimidating places.' Sitting over on that visiting bench, it was unbelievable. He left saying, 'Wow', and when you got Frank to say wow, it was pretty impressive.
"After we lost a heart-breaker, my phone blew up. I didn't field any other calls or have interest in anything else. I knew this was where I wanted to be. My wife confirmed that yesterday after being here for only 12 hours. We're driving around and she looks over and says, 'This feels like home.'
"We can't do this without you. This is not about me, this is not about the athletes, this is about filling this arena because of the tradition and the culture. Those are the two hardest things there is to find. It takes years and years to develop tradition; and the Ibas and the Suttons – that's as big as it gets. We are privileged, you are privileged, I am privileged to be here because of them and that means a great deal to me. We've got to have the students. The rowdiest arena in America, we have to get back to that. We have to make this miserable for opponents, and we'll do that. I look forward to traveling this state, traveling into Texas and meeting all of you because ultimately life is about relationships. The more you get to know our players and our family, you'll find out we're very social. But as I said, it takes everybody.
"We're coming here to win. I told the players yesterday in a team meeting, losing is not an option. We're going to work. I have no greater appreciation for the fans who have to get in their vehicles on a Wednesday night and drive to come support us and the work that these guys have put in. The one thing I can promise you is that we're going to play for the name on the front of the uniform.
"The one thing I can promise you, I can't promise wins, if I could do that, we'd be playing Wisconsin tomorrow night. I can promise you this: You're not going to find a group of guys who are going to take that court every single day and work any harder. We're going to guard, we're going to rebound and we're going to make life tough as hell for everyone we play."
On being part of a practice where shoulder pads from football were used:"I haven't seen that, but it seems like a great idea."
On being hopeful he would get a job at a school like OSU:"I'm a big dreamer and I use that cliché. I've never stopped dreaming. When I worked 10 years with Jim at Western, those were some of my greatest memories being a junior college coach. Because your involvement is so great with the student athletes there. You never know. I never take one thing for granted, but I was given an opportunity at Stephen F. Austin. I knew I was prepared because I was with great people, and here I stand today. I never stop working and that's what I am, a grinder. To me that makes the journey to get here all worth it."
On looking for the rest of his coaching staff:"We're working on it. It's a process and I can say that we are going to have a staff that is second to none. That fits who I am, fits who we are and is about everything that we deem is important to win games."
On the short period between losing in the tournament and being hired as the coach:"Well, there wasn't much sleep. It's the way our business works today. My agent dealt with 99 percent of it because I refused. I was so dedicated to that team and those five seniors that when positions became open there was only one, because many other schools called. Many of them wanted to work this process. In my mind, this is what I was and this is what I was about; and we made it happen. This is perfect."
On his experiences at Gallagher-Iba:"I remember going into the huddle for timeouts and not being able to hear. And that was probably a good thing because we were on the wrong end of the scoreboard. I'm always impressed when you walk into an arena and people ooh, ah and clap and you here a gasp when a play happens. Because that means you've got educated fans. You have people who understand and that was here. Then you throw in the students. I go back to when Coach (Eddie) Sutton was here, no one could score against them. The defense was unbelievable. I remember those games and I don't know if there is any one in particular. I think it's just a combination of every time I was in here this place was crazy. It's such an historic building and the acoustics are set up beautifully for the home team. All that stuff was memories that will stick with me for many years."
On trying to connect to the fans on campus:"I'll do anything for our students. I've been to every Greek house and organization. That's part of what we do is touch young people. My wife and I were involved with United Way and many other charities and you speak at as many of those places as you can. If I can't go out and have the opportunity to speak to a group and expect them to travel to our games, shame on me for not doing that. We're all in this together. It takes everybody, it's not just a coach and a group of players. It takes everybody to do that. I'm a relationship guy. The more people I get to meet the better."
On how much OSU basketball he has watched:"I'll be very honest, you get wrapped up in your own season and I'm a big film guy. I didn't see a great deal of their games. I would catch a piece here or there. I saw Phil (Forte) and Jawun (Evans) play a lot in high school. You see these guys play on the AAU circuit because of the way recruiting is set up. I know we have really good players and I know we have guys that are very experienced and have been through the battles. You have a few guys dinged up, but I'm going in excited about the talent that is here and the opportunity to coach really good players. We are going to play good teams. We are going to test ourselves and these guys need to know that every night we step on the floor we are going to give it our all and we are going to go to work."
On how Oklahoma State became a dream job:“I don’t like using the term old-school, but winning is very important to me, and there are challenges that are in place when you don’t have culture and you don't have a fan base who understands what it's about. When I was a player in the Big Eight and when I was back in it in the Big 12, this was one of the greatest places to play. It gives you a great opportunity to win and that means a great deal to me. This fits who I am, who my wife is. I grew up in a town of 13,000 people and I'm comfortable and it's friendly. I love to go to the coffee shop and say hello. That's who I am. I don't need a lot of extra stuff, the occasional golf course every now and then, but it fit me. That's what excites me and when you throw all of the history, pageantry and tradition, this was meant for me."
On if he was waiting to take a head coaching job:"Well there was a lot of factors in play. One, I was very blessed to be around very good coaches that let me coach as an assistant coach, and I didn't have a bad job. I was with Frank [Martin] and he let me do a great deal of coaching in the SEC, life wasn't horrible. I always had the desire and the want to be a head coach, and yet to just have the title of head coach wasn't just who I am. To have an opportunity at Stephen F. was perfect, Stephen F. Austin was the second-winningest program in the state of Texas since the year 2000. It actually dates back 45 years ago to their women's program and the success that they had on the women's side. There was a culture of basketball at a successful program. They won 27 games the year before I got there, so that played a huge part; basketball was very important there. When I interviewed there, it was the president, the AD and the head of the board of regents, I knew that was the right fit and exactly what I looked for. I don't worry about age. I feel 29. The experience made the ending and the journey was fabulous because of the people."
On how the history of defense at Oklahoma State fits his style:"It's a perfect fit. We guard and we work at it and yet [Stephen F. Austin] averaged just under 80 points a game. I believe in efficient offense. We shot 52 percent this year in conference play. We've got guys who can make baskets and they do it in a lot of ways. I believe in the old adage, ‘The closer you are to the basket, the better chance you have to score;’ if you can find ways to make lay-ups and easy opportunities. We slipped a little bit this year in this number, but we've always been a great offensive rebounding team with very little size. We were 11 or 12 in the country – another opportunity to score the basket. We have a bunch of guys that can go offensive rebound and do those things. Offensively we'll be good. Another thing last year, [Stephen F. Austin] led the country in assists and we were second this year in assists. We had six different guys lead us in scoring and that becomes really hard to prepare for, but the constant has always been at the defensive end. We make the opponent’s life tough and I'm not going to allow you to run when you want to. We're going to take that away and you better have good enough players, that are tougher, that can really step up and make a play to try and beat us."
On his family:"My wife, Susan, my much better half of 28 years. My son, Tyler. Tyler was a freshman at [Stephen F. Austin] this year and red-shirted for us and he informed me yesterday that he was transferring. My oldest daughter, Katie, is a 10th grader and my youngest daughter, Ashley, is an eighth grader."
On the pressure he felt to hire the right guy:"There are no guarantees. The most important thing is that you are hiring a man that has a family and you're hiring a leader. So you want to find out about the personal qualities and what does he bring to the table such as integrity, commitment, love, compassion and will he put his arms around his players. They are not a commodity to be traded on the open market. They are a treasure. So you need someone that understands that, appreciates it and will invest and give it himself. That's what I think we have here. I believe in the process. I believe in the daily grind. The kids want discipline, they want structure, they want leadership and I think we have someone here that is going to back that up. We have the philosophy that it starts downstairs in that weight room. Then you need to continue the maturation or the transformation in the weight room to the court. When things don't go right, they have to be able to come in his office and sit down and talk because it's not just about basketball problems. These are real life problems. I like to think when done right that what happens on the athletic program just augments the education the kids are receiving. One of the best classes should be taught here in athletics because it's about life and you want these young men to leave here with a diploma in their hand and a brighter future. It's about changing lives. I believe we got that kind of man here. I've been around him a couple days now and I feel really good that we turned our program into a real treasure. He'll be there every day for these players, every day."
On when he knew he wanted to hire Brad Underwood:"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. 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. I called Robert Hill 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.’ 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."