Illinois has found its next basketball coach.
Brad Underwood is leaving Oklahoma State to replace John Groce, the school announced Saturday.
"In searching for a new coach, we were looking for a proven winner who would build upon our proud tradition while developing an unmistakable identity for Illinois Basketball," Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. "Brad's teams play a fast, aggressive style and show unyielding toughness. They have a tremendous energy that I believe will ignite the Orange Krush and our fans to once again make State Farm Center one of the most intimidating venues in all of college basketball."
Underwood led the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament in his lone season with the school. They lost to Michigan in the first round Friday.
He was previously at Stephen F. Austin for three seasons and led the Lumberjacks to three NCAA appearances, including first-round upsets of Virginia Commonwealth and West Virginia in 2013 and 2015, respectively. He was previously an assistant at South Carolina, Kansas State and Western Illinois.
The are big expectations for Underwood to return Illinois back to national prominence after it missed the tournament in the final four years under Groce, who went 95-75 in his five seasons.
Illinois won Big Ten titles under previous coaches Bill Self and Bruce Weber and reached the national title game in 2005 under Weber. In the following 12 years, the program has been to the NCAA tournament just five times and never made the Sweet 16.
One challenge for Underwood will be recruiting in the Chicago area that produces some of the nation's top talent, but is no longer a pipeline to Champaign as it previously was under Lou Henson and Self.
"Coaching basketball at the University of Illinois is a once-in-lifetime opportunity," Underwood said in a statement. "The players, fans and administration at Oklahoma State have been absolutely incredible, and I want to thank them for the support they've given me and my family over the last year. However, during my time at Western Illinois, I always saw the Illinois coaching job as one of the truly best in the nation."
Underwood agreed to a six-year deal worth more than $3 million per season, according to a report by ESPN. He made $1 million this past year at Oklahoma State, and the sides never agreed on a new deal despite his success in the second half of the season that saw the Cowboys win 10 of 11 games to make the NCAA tournament.
Speculation about his contract and future became the a hot topic in the final weeks of the season.
“We are saddened and disappointed in Brad’s decision to leave Oklahoma State after one year,” Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement. “We are trying to digest this news.
“We wish Brad and his family well. In the meantime, we will consider the situation and move forward.”
Erick Smith, USA Today