Oklahoma State introduces new coach Underwood

Mar 23, 2016 - 11:40 PM STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) An early assist in the Brad Underwood era at Oklahoma State came from his wife, Susan.

On Monday, just a day after his Stephen F. Austin squad lost to Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Underwood accepted the job as Oklahoma State's basketball coach. The next day, in the midst of the whirlwind, his wife spoke up and eased his mind about the move.

''I knew this was where I wanted to be,'' Underwood said. ''My wife confirmed that yesterday after being here for only 12 hours. We're driving around, and she looks over and says, `This feels like home.'''

With his family by his side, Underwood was introduced to about 2,000 Cowboys fans Wednesday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The public event was as much a trip down memory lane as it was look to the future. Moe Iba, son of former Oklahoma State coach Henry Iba for whom the arena is partially named, attended. Former coach Eddie Sutton, who led Oklahoma State to Final Fours in 1995 and 2004, was mentioned several times.

Much of Underwood's speech was about his desire to return Oklahoma State to the level of the Iba and Sutton days. He talked about doing it in a way that resonated with the fan base - by playing hard-nosed, tough man-to-man defense like Sutton's teams played, and by ensuring hard work every practice that he expects to carry over to games.

''We're coming here to win,'' he said. ''I told the players yesterday in a team meeting, losing is not an option. We're going to work.''

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said he pulled the trigger quickly because in today's world, waiting around isn't a good idea. In three seasons at SFA, Underwood had an 89-14 record and set a program record with an .864 winning percentage. And Underwood said his phone was ''blowing up'' after the loss to Notre Dame with calls from interested schools.

''I knew exactly who we wanted, who was at the top of our list,'' Holder said. ''I just worried that someone might beat us to the starting line. Everybody said well, hey, we hired a coach in 48 hours. If you don't, you might not have a coach.''

Underwood will lead a team with some solid building blocks. Guard Phil Forte, who suffered an elbow injury early this and missed most of the games, said Wednesday that he will stay at Oklahoma State to play his final year. Forte averaged 15 points per game as a junior and shot 38 percent from 3-point range. He looks forward to a chance to finish strong.

''Just to be able to stay here and have a chance to go out the right way - we have great players, guys I feel really comfortable with, on and off the court, and a new coach who knows what he's doing for sure,'' Forte said.

Forte's first impression on his new coach was ideal.

''When I walk into the practice facility, the first time I'd seen it - he's in there,'' Underwood said. ''And that's the culture that has to be set here - it's based on work. When you walk in and you see him in there working - I got a smile on my face right away.''

Jawun Evans, one of the top freshmen in the nation this season, also will return after missing the last part of the season with a shoulder injury. Evans scored 42 points against Oklahoma, a school record for a freshman. Forte said Evans played a role in his choice to return to Oklahoma State.

''Just to lead the team the way he did - when I was out, we had other guys that were out, too, and he led the team,'' Forte said. ''As a freshman, to do what he did was really remarkable. ... There's not a better point guard in the country, so for me, why would I want to leave that?''

Underwood said he feels there are enough good players already on campus to immediately be competitive.

''I know we've got really, really good players,'' he said. ''And I know we've got guys who are really experienced, who have been through the battles. We've got a few guys dinged up. But I'm going in excited as heck about the talent that's here.''


Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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