The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

‘All we’ve done is light the match again’: Underwood thanks fans, forecasts electric season

Illinois+basketball+head+coach+Brad+Underwood+in+the+Ubben+Basketball+Complex+on+Monday.
Jacob Slabosz
Illinois basketball head coach Brad Underwood in the Ubben Basketball Complex on Monday.

Illinois men’s basketball head coach Brad Underwood emerged from the gym at Richard T. Ubben Basketball Complex around 10 a.m. on Monday after finishing a three-hour practice with his 2023-24 team. On the court, a handful of players could be seen honing their skills after being dismissed.

The head coach, comfortably dressed in a gray Nike-branded Illinois sweatshirt and joggers, disappeared briefly into his office. 

Underwood’s office, which neighbors the team’s practice space, features wood paneling, a display shelf for trophies and an 85-inch picture frame television. With natural light flooding in from floor-to-ceiling windows, the head coach’s workspace is a result of Ubben’s $40 million renovation project that concluded in August of this year

Underwood spoke to The Daily Illini about players, the future of the program and his favorite coaching memories. Check out the full conversation here.

Since his hiring in 2017, Underwood has produced quantifiable results for the Illini. The coach has led the team to three NCAA tournament appearances, a Big Ten tournament championship, a Big Ten championship and four seasons as the winningest team in the Big Ten.

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    The success of Illinois basketball has been the result of hard work from a variety of different people, Underwood explained. 

    Everybody’s got great coaches and great facilities, and it’s taken a lot of sweat equity to get this thing to a certain level,” Underwood said. “I think we’ve established a culture that when you ask people what you’re gonna get when you play Illinois, it’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s tough. It’s aggressive.”

    Prior to coaching the basketball program at Illinois to its present glory, Underwood has spent time at Western Illinois, Kansas State, South Carolina and Oklahoma State. Since he was hired here in 2017, Underwood has established a championship program.

    Underwood said he saw potential in the Illinois basketball program when he was offered his coaching position.

    I think this program is back where it belongs,” Underwood said. “I said that when I took the job. I think it will always be a program that deserves to be in the upper echelon of college basketball programs.”

    With sold-out season tickets now a yearly standard for the Illini basketball program, Underwood has an increasingly popular team on his hands.

    The coach explained that the state of Illinois has always taken pride in its basketball programs, from the high school level onwards. Underwood said the “buzz” around Illini basketball can be attributed to their winning record in recent years. 

    I think all we’ve done is kinda light the match again,” Underwood said. 

    According to Underwood, the Illini play some of the toughest teams in the country each year. The coach explained the upcoming season is no different, with no shortage of exciting matchups in store throughout the academic year.

    “We play one of the toughest schedules in the country every year,” Underwood explained. “I think that keeps things exciting for our fans to see and keeps them interested.”

    Looking forward to the 2023-24 season’s games, Underwood pointed to a couple of different stretches during which matches will be particularly exciting.

    “The month of November this year, all home games,” Underwood said. “Just the way it worked out. Obviously, you’ve got Marquette at home in a big season match up. They’re gonna be top three or four in the country on our court.”

    The head coach explained that December will also be an exciting time for Illinois basketball fans.

    “Rutgers, in my opinion, is the hardest place to play in our league,” Underwood said. “It’s very difficult. They’ve got a great coach. That’s Dec. 2. Then, Dec. 5 … we go to Madison Square Garden to play Florida Atlantic, a Final Four team, in what is the premiere event of basketball in the first semester, which is the Jimmy V (Classic). … Right after that, we’re at Tennessee, who’ve got one of the all-time great coaches in Rick Barnes.”

    Underwood said he appreciates the support the team receives from the campus community.

    “We’ve got the best student section in the country in Orange Krush,” Underwood said. “They sell out (season tickets) in 22 minutes … That’s not taken for granted by us. We’re extremely appreciative.”

    Underwood said he encourages fans to expect a lot of their home team this season.

    “Set the bar high,” Underwood said. “We’re gonna shoot for it and nothing less. Along the way, we’re gonna have a lot of fun and enjoy the opportunity to get to do this in front of the best fans in the country.”

     

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    About the Contributors
    Lisa Chasanov, Managing Editor for Reporting
    Howdy! My name is Lisa, my game is delivering quality news to your phone screen, coffee table and recycling bin. Since fall 2022, I have had the honor of writing, editing and often-unsuccessfully pitching content for The Daily Illini. During my time at the 152-year-old news source, I have served as a reporter at our news desk, summer editor and assistant news editor. Most recently, after a rewarding year of bringing you hard-hitting stories such as “Uncut: Dissecting Circumcision” and “‘Surf’s Up’ could be the film of the summer,” I have taken over as managing editor for reporting. In my free time, you can find me performing open heart surgery in dark alleys, communicating telepathically with small woodland creatures and engaging in otherwise dubious activities. If you would like to summon me for any reason, you can find me at [email protected]. Good Yard. Stay tuned for more.
    James Kim, Sports Editor
    My name is James Kim and I’m a senior studying English with a minor in business. This is my third year with The Daily Illini and it’s been an amazing ride so far. When I joined in fall 2021, I began as a staff writer for the sports section where I covered women’s tennis. In spring 2022, I became an assistant sports editor and started covering soccer and Illinois men’s basketball. From spring 2023 onwards I’ve been working as the sports editor! In addition to being an Illini and Real Madrid fanatic, I also love watching movies and TV shows. If you have any questions about writing for The DI, you can reach me at my email below. I-L-L!
    Jacob Slabosz, Managing Editor for Visuals
    Hey, I’m Jacob! I am currently a sophomore in computer engineering with a minor in German. I started with The Daily Illini in fall 2022 as a news reporter and staff photographer, and by spring 2023, I had worked my way to photo editor. I have been the managing editor for visuals since March 2023. When I’m not taking pictures for The DI or for fun, I enjoy cooking, water sports and tending to my numerous houseplants. I’m excited to see the content that our team can produce with a more visual-oriented approach.
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