Coming from a town enriched with basketball tradition, Brad Underwood exhibits what it looks like to be from McPherson, Kansas.
Underwood’s first Division I head coaching job came at Stephen F. Austin in 2013 — nearly 31 years after graduating from McPherson High in 1982.
Although his stint with the Lumberjacks was brief, you’d be hard pressed to find a college basketball fan in Nacogdoches, Texas who isn’t enamored with the McPherson native.
Underwood guided Stephen F. Austin to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including a pair of upset wins over No. 5 seed VCU in 2014, and No. 4 seed West Virginia last season.
He also kept a firm group around the Southland Conference, going 52-1 en route to three straight conference championships. His overall record of 89-14 at Stephen F. Austin put him on the radar for bigger schools in search of a head coach.
Nearly seven hours up the road in Stillwater, Oklahoma was a program in dire need of a resurrection.
Oklahoma State, the last team other than Kansas to win the Big 12 championship outright, was coming off a 2015 season in which many fans claimed “rock bottom.”
Last season the Cowboys finished 9th in the Big 12 with a 3-15 conference record and a 12-20 overall record. It marked the end of the Travis Ford era in Stillwater, which lasted nine years and resulted in one NCAA Tournament win.
For a program in desperate need of a resurgence, Underwood has made an immediate impact.
Underwood has a knack for getting the most out of his players. His teams play fast and with aggression, reminiscent of how a product of the Jay Frazier era would coach. It’s how current head coach Kurt Kinnamon has always had his players play the game of basketball.
In every sense, Brad Underwood coaches basketball like a true McPherson native.
And the results are staggering.
Oklahoma State is 10-2 this season, with wins over Connecticut, Georgetown and Wichita State last Saturday at Interest Bank Arena.
Next Saturday when No. 11 West Virginia comes to Gallagher-Iba Arena, Underwood will be going for his 100th career win.
Only three coaches have ever won 100 games in their first 116 attempts. Doc Meanwell in 1918 won his 100th game in his 109th try. Buck Freeman started his career with a 100-10 record in 1932, and legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp went 100-16 to start his career. And then there is Underwood who is sitting at 99-16.
Underwood can tie Rupp and become the third fastest coach to win 100 games with a win over Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers on Dec. 30. Underwood served as an assistant to Huggins at Kansas State during the 2006-2007 season.
As far as current coaches go, Underwood is the winningest active head coach in the nation. He has won 86.1 percent of his games. Mark Few of Gonzaga is second (81.2 percent), Roy Williams of North Carolina is third (79 percent), John Calipari of Kentucky is fourth (77.1 percent), Mike Krzyzewski of Duke is fifth (76.6 percent) and Bill Self of Kansas is sixth (76.1 percent).
That’s a staggering list to be apart of, let alone on top of. Yes, Underwood has done nearly all his damage in the Southland Conference; the skeptics say his brand of basketball will not translate over to the next level of basketball.
So far it has. Oklahoma State has scored at least 90 points in eight games, and has forced every opponent into at least 15 turnovers this season.
It took Underwood 27 years to get a shot as a head coach. He spent time as an assistant coach at Western Illinois, Kansas State and South Carolina.
Now, 31 years after playing his final game as a Bullpup, Underwood is on the verge of a milestone.
Contact Gallagher Martin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GMartinSentinel.