A coach like Brad Underwood only comes around so often. Deeply rooted in the state of Kansas, Underwood grew up in Kansas, played in Kansas and was coaching in Kansas. The internet has been buzzing with a campaign to "Bring Back Brad" and has not slowed down. With two games left in the season for Kansas State, the chances of our season ending soon are high and what started as a promising season of college basketball quickly turned ugly in conference play. A Kansas State alum like Brad Underwood having such a phenomenal reign at head coach is hard to ignore, especially when the program at Kansas State is taking such a nosedive. There is no better fit to Kansas State's problem at head coach than Underwood. The qualifications are there, his work ethic is proven and his heart is with the Wildcats. Bring back Brad.
To understand Brad Underwood’s rise to the top, you have to understand a much bigger picture. Starting his coaching career in 1988 at Dodge City Community College, Underwood led the school to a 62-60 record. After five years, Underwood moved onto join the staff of Jim Kerwin, former Kansas State assistant, at Western Illinois. After ten years as an assistant to Kerwin, the decision to move onto Daytona Beach Community College proved fruitful. After three years at Daytona Beach, Underwood helped lead them to three consecutive seasons of 20 wins and two conference championships. His players were receiving scholarships to go to prominent programs and the school was flourishing with Underwood’s hard work ethic and unparalleled leadership skills. The day had finally come when Underwood and his family were going home to Kansas State, but with a twist. Underwood took the job at Kansas State in an administrative role just to be closer to home and have the opportunity to one day coach at a school he was so passionate about.
In 2006, Underwood came on board at Kansas State as the director of operations for none other than Bob "Huggy Bear" Huggins. Not only was this comfortable territory for Underwood, he was closer to family and absolutely loved being back in Manhattan, Kansas. More importantly, this was a step away from his goal to become a Division I head coach. After Huggins abruptly left for West Virginia, Underwood was quickly offered the position of assistant coach by new head coach, Frank Martin. The decision for Martin was a no brainer based on the sacrifice Underwood had made just to be back at Kansas State and have the hope of coaching again. That type of dedication and hard work was synonymous with Underwood’s name and would follow him throughout his time at Kansas State. From the development of key players like Jacob Pullen, helping coach the team to the best school record in 2009-10 with 29 wins, to adjusting the offensive scheme that would help turn the team around in 2010-11, Brad Underwood was truly an asset at Kansas State.
He was so much of a key part of Kansas State’s team that in 2012, Frank Martin departed for South Carolina and Underwood went with him. The impact Underwood made in Manhattan was about to be showcased in Columbia, South Carolina as well. The duo of Frank Martin and Brad Underwood was something to behold for the steady decline of interest in the South Carolina Men’s Basketball program. The short time Underwood was at South Carolina, the recruiting class became ranked in the top 40 nationally and the team was moving forward in a positive direction. Underwood’s hard work and dedication to success caught the eye of a Division I program and his goal was about to become reality.
Twenty five years into his college coaching career, Underwood was finally given the chance to be a head coach in a Division I program. Stephen F. Austin hired the coach that Kansas State should have hired in 2012. What has Brad Underwood done since then? Take a look at his overall record of 84–13 (.866) and a conference record of 51-1 (.981) accomplished in the three short years he has been in charge. While SFA is in the Southland conference and not the Big 12, there is nothing short of impressive about his ability to lead a team from this conference in back to back NCAA tournament appearances, looking like a third to happen this year.
Brad Underwood of Stephen F. Austin on 16-game winning streak, longest in nation. 84-13 overall, 51-1 in Southland Conference play. Insane.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 1, 2016
While the sports media world is taking notice of Underwood’s presence at Stephen F. Austin, are the powers that be at Kansas State? Without a doubt, they cannot ignore his success at this point. While Underwood was the obvious hire to the Kansas State fans, the administration was clearly not going to go down that route in 2012. Underwood has shown his leadership and ability to coach his players up and turn them into a reflection of hard work and discipline. Weber has shown his leadership by blaming players for the lack of wins and success at Kansas State.
Some of the various excuses coming from Weber have been a young team, tough conference and underlying attitude problems. While there is no doubt anyone is denying how tough it is to recruit to the less than bustling city of Manhattan, there is still more to offer in Manhattan than other small college towns.
Take a look at Manhattan, Kansas versus Nacogdoches, Texas:
Now that we have those comparisons out on paper, the obvious difference between the two schools would have to be level of competition in the conference. The Big 12, while rocky and having the obvious drawback of not having enough teams in the conference, still has one of the toughest overall conferences to play in. The Southland Conference is nothing to scoff at, yet does not show the same deep threats as the Big 12 does.
With two games remaining for Weber and the Wildcats, the pressure of having a winning culture is slowly shifted into the promises of doing better in a press conference going into another early off season. The excuses and the blame will be pushed on a young team and Weber might even blame himself. We will hear that we beat a top rated Oklahoma and that we showed signs of progress. We will hear everything that we need to hear as fans to keep some sort of hope alive.
Meanwhile, in Nacogdoches, Underwood will be preparing his team for another shot at the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, a milestone the Wildcats are once again missing out on. The choice to overlook the openly proud Kansas State Wildcat, Brad Underwood, as a head coach and move onto Bruce Weber in 2012 will haunt the athletic department for a while. John Currie can either pretend everything is fine while it is obvious the Men’s Basketball program is on a steady decline, or he can bring Brad Underwood back to Manhattan where he belongs.