Brad Underwood sets the bar high as he takes over at Illinois

CHAMPAIGN – A prediction about her son has come true first for her husband.

“My wife told my son that he would always go to school here,” said Brad Underwood of his wife Susan. “His first jersey was a Brian Cook jersey.”

That will come in handy for that kid over the next few years, since his father got to Champaign just a little faster than he did.

On Monday Underwood was officially named Illinois’ head basketball coach in an introductory ceremony at the State Farm Center in Champaign. It completes a wild weekend of transition for the coach, who was leading Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, flying to Champaign on Saturday, then being introduced as the new leader of the Illini on Monday.

“I love that he’s a winner, a proven winner,” said Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman, who was able to pluck Underwood from Stillwater after just one season with Cowboys.

He’s right. Underwood’s track record as a head coach in Division I is impressive. In four seasons at that level, he’s taken every team to the NCAA Tournament. Illinois is on the opposite end of that at the moment, having missed the NCAA Tournament the past four seasons.

They’ll play an NIT game tonight in Champaign against Boise State. Underwood will just be a fan for that one and doesn’t plan to be back in the same spot once he roams the sidelines at the State Farm Center.

“I dream big and I dream bigger,” said Underwood. “Winning a national championship is something that can happen here and I want to be apart of that.”