CHAMPAGNE, Ill. — Brad Underwood did not go to bed on Sunday evening. It was the early hours of Monday morning before the Illinois basketball coach laid his head on his pillow. And, no, his wife Susan didn’t allow him to put the Big Ten regular season championship trophy to bed, as he joked he would after Sunday’s 74-72 title win over the No. °24 from Iowa.
But with five days to go before the playoffs begin for No. 16 Illinois (22-8, 15-5 Big Ten), Underwood and his team — including three freshman assistant coaches — enjoyed a rare moment in the season to get together. and celebrate leading the program to its first regular-season championship in 17 years.
“Let’s just say I got up a little late,” Underwood said on his weekly radio show on the Illini Radio Network live from Papa Del’s Pizza Factory in Champaign. “We had the staff and everyone involved. They came home last night, and it was fun. It was one of those rare occasions when you’re not immediately supported by another game. It’s really important to be able to enjoy those moments.
“I have an incredible staff. Looking back, it’s been 10 months since we lost everyone. We have lost a member of staff who was part of the family. These guys were amazing in helping us get here. But bringing the guys in with no chemistry, no synergy, learning all about newness from the players to my terminology and for those guys doing amazing work means the world. They are great people. They’re great family members and family guys, and they’re great at their jobs. It made it really special to see these guys celebrating.
Underwood addressed a number of topics on his weekly radio show, including some sophomores who stepped up on Sunday, his thanks to Fred Hoiberg and the Big Ten tournament.