To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Stephen F. Austin coach Brad Underwood about becoming a new coach of a team that lost its 2 leading scorers from last year.
You played basketball for Coach Jack Hartman at Kansas State, how good a player were you back in the day, and how did you get into coaching? I was a very average player who worked awfully hard to achieve a Big 8 scholarship. Playing for legendary coach Jack Hartman was an honor and privilege. The thought of being away from basketball was not something that ever crossed my mind. I loved the game and teaching it was something that I really enjoyed. I am very competitive and love the competition and strategy.
In the 1995 MCC tourney as an assistant at Western Illinois under Coach Jim Kerwin, Bryce Drew scored 25 points in a three-point, three-overtime win by Valparaiso. Where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? The loss to the Bryce Drew-led Crusaders was one of the most disappointing games I have ever been a part of….but it was also one of the most exciting ! We had the game won on a couple of different occasions, but give Valpo credit for making winning plays. It is a game I will always remember.
In the 2010 NCAA tourney as an assistant under Coach Frank Martin at your alma mater, Jacob Pullen scored 28 points in a five-point, two-overtime win over Xavier. How were you able to keep your team focused after Terrell Holloway scored with five seconds left in regulation and Jordan Crawford swished a 35-footer with four seconds left in the first overtime? That K-State team was always able to stay in the moment. They did this all year long: they were a very tough-minded team who had great leadership. Frank was very good in adverse situations with that team, keeping them positive and at task. Jacob Pullen was special: he had great confidence and never feared taking big shots. Denis Clemente was our leader at the PG spot and helped create a lot of great looks for Jacob. It was a great game in the history of the NCAA tournament.
What makes Frank Martin such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? Frank is a great leader: he creates a unity and toughness that is unrivaled by many teams. He is a very good defensive coach who gets his teams to play very, very hard every night out. I learned a lot from him: he is not a micro-manager but was great at getting the most out of his players/coaching staff.
You were named head coach in April: why did you take the job? The winning culture: this program has had great success and basketball is a part of the culture here at SFA. I was very impressed with the administrative support and the people. President Baker Pattillo and athletic director Robert Hill are SFA people who take great pride in their university. Basketball is important at SFA.
You lost your two leading scorers from last year (Taylor Smith and Antonio Bostic). How will you be able to fill the offensive void left by the departure of these two seniors? I am not worried a whole bunch about replacing offense as much as I am about replacing the rebounds and shot-blocking that Taylor provided last year. We will find ways to make up for his offensive points, but we may miss the fact that he shot 69% from the field! Bostic was a great defender and we are working to find that replacement defensive stopper: the guy who takes great pride in shutting someone down. Understanding our roles and creating a mindset of success is the key to replacing all-league guys.
Your non-conference road schedule includes a trip to Austin next month: how do you prepare to face a Big 12 team like the Longhorns? We play non-league opponents that will help prepare us for league play. Texas is a great program and has a great coach, but we will prepare to win just like we do for every game.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? I am an EVERYDAY GUY! I want our players to continue to improve every day. If we do this, then the results will take care of themselves. I also want our seniors to graduate.