Oklahoma State has hired Stephen F. Austin coach Brad Underwood to replace basketball coach Travis Ford.
Underwood arrives at OSU following a three-year stay at Stephen F. Austin that ranks as one of the best starts to a head coaching career in college basketball history.
Underwood is a 1986 graduate of Kansas State, where he played for former Oklahoma A&M football and basketball standout Jack Hartman. Hartman learned his hoops craft under legendary Cowboy head coach, Mr. Henry Iba. Underwood was a member of Hartman’s final teams at K-State, and helped Hartman become the winningest coach in Wildcat history.
“I named three things that I was looking for in the new head basketball coach at Oklahoma State: character, coaching style and fit,” OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder said. “Brad Underwood gets the highest marks in each of those categories. He played in the Big Eight for Jack Hartman, a disciple of Henry Iba. He has coached and recruited in the Big 12, and has been very successful as a head coach in one of our prime recruiting grounds in the state of Texas. K-State is a sister institution with Oklahoma State in a lot of ways, so anyone who graduates from there and lives in Manhattan is probably going to connect quickly with our fans and our people. And as for character, everyone around him speaks of him as the great friend, father and person he is. In my opinion, Brad Underwood is going to be a great fit for Oklahoma State.”
Ford was fired after coaching eight years at OSU.
Holder in a release Saturday said OSU and Ford “have mutually agreed that the school and Ford will part ways.”
The action follows an injury-plagued season in which OSU was 12-20 competing in the Big 12 Conference – the toughest league in the nation. A string of three NCAA Tournament appearances ended this year. Under Ford, OSU appeared in the NCAA Tournament five times.
Ford leaves with an overall record of 155-111, including a Big 12 Conference record of 63-75. Ford had three years and a guaranteed $7.2 million remaining on his contract. That figure will be subtracted by the amount of his salary if he gets a new job.
“I like Travis Ford and his family,” Holder said. “He worked very hard at his job. Unfortunately, we have to move on.”
In the first weekend of March Madness in the NCAA Tournament, some of the names that could be in the mix for the OSU job are: Chris Beard, Arkansas-Little Rock; Tad Boyle, Colorado; James Dickey, OSU assistant; Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh; Bryce Drew, Valparaiso; Doug Gottlief, CBS Sports and former OSU player; Jerod Haase, UAB; Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa; Chris Mack, Xavier; Gregg Marshall, Wichita State; Archie Miller, Dayton; Kelvin Sampson, Houston coach and former coach at Oklahoma; Scott Sutton, ORU coach and son of former OSU coach Eddie Sutton; Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State; and Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin.
A drawback to attracting a new coach is the high level of competition in the Big 12.
The Big 12 had seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, including No. 1 seed Kansas, No. 2 seed OU, No. 3 seed West Virginia, No. 4 seed Iowa State, No. 5 seed Baylor, No. 6 seed Texas and No. 8 seed Texas Tech.
An advantage for OSU is the big contract that its can offer to a new coach.
Ford was 155-111 in Stillwater, but only 55-65 in Big 12 play. He had only one upper-division finish in the conference standings. Even though Ford had five 20-win seasons and five NCAA tournament berths, his record in the tournament was only 1-5.