Brad Underwood is the Perfect Embodiment of the Illinois “We Will Win” Mantra


brad underwood

All introductory press conferences are essentially product launches- nothing more, nothing less. You already know this basic truth when you tune in, or in some cases, show up in person, to see the product rollout take place. You check in not for actual news (that’s already been broken days ago) but for the details.

You already know the gist of it coming in, but the intro presser session is all about the details. It’s like a summer blockbuster action movie- you’re fully aware that the hero is going to win eventually, but you watch anyway to see what weapons and vehicles he utilizes. Intro pressers are what they are, and there’s never really a legitimate reason to have very strong feelings either way, about an intro presser. 

As for the Brad Underwood hire itself, now that is something to feel strongly about- and in a very positive way!

High noon today brought the introductory press conference for newly minted Illini basketball head coach and the session provided an opportunity for Underwood to outline his vision for the program.

First and foremost he is intense. Yes, all coaches are to some degree, but Brad Underwood definitely resides more on the upper end of the hard core vs. chillax spectrum.

“Winning affects my personal life, my wife will tell you that,” he said. “It affects hers too.”

Luckily for Brad Underwood, his wife, and his family, he’s won at every place he’s been at. He’s a link to more on his career dossier.

From Community College to the Southland Conference to the Big 12, he’s gotten it done, and he’s wasted time in doing so. With every regime change, you must deal with the growing pains that come along with the new leader implementing his specific systems on a set of players that were brought in to perform in the predecessor’s systems. Every coach approaches how to handle that differently.

With Brad Underwood, there will be no dipping the toes in the water and getting slowly adjusted to the temperature. It’s going to be dive right in next season.

brad underwood

“I jump both feet in,” he said. “I don’t think you can do it any other way.”

Underwood will be given an assistant coach salary pool of $850,000, which is the largest in the B1G. He mentioned his tenure as an assistant at Western Illinois, and the fews times that his side came into Assembly Hall and experienced a whopping. Remembering the former glory of the program, the opportunity to take over for the recently sacked John Groce was a no-brainer:

“For me, it was no decision, I spent 10 years in the state, 1993-2003 and at that time I learned how powerful the Illini Nation was and how special basketball is to every young person who grew up here and wanted to be a part of it.” 

By the way that’s a Kansan saying that. A Kansas native that will focus on recruiting the state of Illinois and keeping the best players at home here.

“The best high school basketball in country,” he said of the Land of Lincoln.  

“It’s got great talent; great coaches. We have a plethora of good players and we’re going to keep them here.” 

He then elaborated on his recruiting strategy and philosophy a bit.

“The coaching business is nothing but relationships. You all may care if they’re four-star, five-star, I don’t. Recruiting to me is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder.”

Next year Illinois brings in a top ten recruiting class so expectations will be high, but not all that high because a few key seniors will be graduating. Asked when the program can be elite again, when fans can dream big he said:

“Why put a cap on it? Why would I want to do that?

“I have no idea, I don’t put limitations on anything.”

“I said the same thing last year, they won 12 games and three conference games (at Oklahoma State, before Underwood came win at won 20 and achieved a NCAA Tournament berth), why would I want to say if we get to .500 we’re good?

“Losing is not at option with me.”

josh whitman

It’s the perfect answer for that type of question at this type of affair. Most of what Brad Underwood had to say today was an extension of the slogan and hashtag “We Will Win” #WeWillWin  While “sweat equity” seems to be a favorite catch phrase of Underwood’s.

“Winning a national championship is something that can happen here, and I want to be a part of that,” Underwood said while on dais. 

“This is an elite program,” he added.

While the program went into substantial decline under Bruce Weber, and sank to previously unfathomable depths under John Groce, they don’t have very far to go in order to reach relevancy again. As a #2 seed in the NIT, they were just a couple wins away from reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times and NBC, contributes to Chicago Tribune.comBoldWGN CLTV and KOZN

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