Ask Kansas State fans who they want to replace Bruce Weber as the team’s next men’s basketball coach and you’ll hear a name over and over again.
They overwhelmingly favor Brad Underwood.
The former K-State basketball player and assistant coach who grew up in nearby McPherson is seen as the dream candidate to guide the Wildcats back to glory.
That may not be the most realistic option, considering he has guided Illinois to back-to-back Big Ten regular-season championships and signed a contract extension in September that came with $16.7 million in guaranteed money. His salary is currently $4.1 million. The purchase from him was $7 million before his new contract, and probably increased afterward.
Underwood is one of the 10 highest-paid coaches in the country.
But that hasn’t stopped speculation that he might be willing to return home and train at his alma mater next season, if the Wildcats can afford it.
Those rumors grew so strong Sunday that Underwood was asked about the rumor connecting him to the K-State coaching search shortly after Illinois was selected as the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
How do you deal with those rumours?
“Not me,” Underwood told reporters at a news conference. “One, I would never discuss anything professionally with you guys like that. But man, I love Illinois. We have the best fans, I have a great boss, we have a top 10 show and we are winning Big Ten championships. I am very unique, as you know. I can’t control what people say and what people think. I’m not worried about that.”
Some might call that a non-denial, a denial.
Underwood stopped short of saying there’s no way he’d be interested in taking the K-State job. But he also listed several reasons why he is happy right where he is training the Fighting Illini.
What does your statement mean?
For now, that is up for debate. But his words will be scrutinized by K-State and Illinois fans until the Wildcats hire a new coach.