Illinois, men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood agree to 3-year extension

Underwood’s assistant coaches received contract extensions through 2022.

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Illinois and men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood have agreed to a three-year contract extension.

Illinois and men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood have agreed to a three-year contract extension.

Gary M. Baranec/AP

Illinois rewarded basketball coach Brad Underwood for a significant jump this season with a three-year contract extension through 2026, the school announced Monday.

The move comes with the Illini challenging for the Big Ten Conference championship in Underwood’s third season. They are ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25, are 20-9 overall and are tied for second in conference play with Michigan State and Wisconsin at 12-6 — a game behind Maryland. Illinois went 14-18 and 12-21 in Underwood’s first two seasons.

“I am extremely pleased with the upward trajectory of our Fighting Illini men’s basketball program and believe we are headed toward a championship future,” athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “Under Coach Underwood’s leadership, our student-athletes have showed steady progress on the court and in the classroom. He has instilled a culture based on competitiveness, toughness, preparation, and accountability that is yielding exciting results.”

Underwood signed a six-year contract in 2017 when he left Oklahoma State after leading the Cowboys to a 20-13 record and the NCAA Tournament in his lone season. He led Stephen F. Austin to an 89-14 mark and three NCAA tourney appearances from 2013-16.

Underwood’s extension is pending approval by the university’s Board of Trustees at its meeting on March 12. The school also announced extensions through 2022 for his assistants.

“I feel like we’re in a really, really good place right now,” Underwood said Sunday after the Illini’s win over Indiana. “And it’s not even the plays on the floor, or the talent. It’s those guys in the locker room. If the locker room isn’t right, you’re not going to win. It’s all about character first, and that helps build the culture of winning.”

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