Stephen F. Austin State University's athletic director admitted they are going to be making one of the most important hires in the basketball program's history.
Athletic Director Robert Hill is working diligently to bring a capable coach who will be able to pick up the men's basketball program where Brad Underwood left it.
The program is in good shape after this weekend’s NCAA Tournament run. Two games have drastically changed the standard for SFA Athletics forever.
“This job, whomever follows Brad, this will probably be the biggest hire athletically in the history of our program,” said Hill. “There's going to be a certain amount of pressure whoever comes in here.”
After a 59-1 record against conference foes, three consecutive NCAA Tournament trips that included taking down programs like West Virginia and VCU, SFA has no plans on taking any steps backwards after the ‘Dream Big’ mentality Underwood set in Nacogdoches.
“This past weekend in Brooklyn was probably the biggest weekend in the history of SFA Athletics. That’s not to belittle the rest of our programs because they do quite well. However, we were on a national stage on primetime Friday night and on primetime Sunday afternoon. We had millions of people watching us,” said Hill.
Between getting TV time, social media spread the Lumberjack spirit like wild fire.
“More people found out about SFA this weekend than any single thing we could have done here at the university. It was a big deal and obviously we want to continue to be a big deal,” said Hill. “To do that, we got to find the right coach to move us into the Sweet 16.”
Hill said the Lumberjacks NCAA run raised the bar for all their sports because it raised their brand.
Three days into the interview process Hill said he's received interest from coaches in Power 5 Conferences including SEC, Big 12 and ACC. To carry on the tradition of excellence, Hill has even reached out to individuals he feels could be a good fit.
“I observe coaches in a lot of places including TV, in person and when I see someone I think could be a great fit for SFA, I keep a book of people who could be a potential head coach. We update that book as time goes on. We were prepared when Brad gave me the news he was going to leave,” said Hill.
Hill couldn't get into specifics on who they are currently interviewing, but he's made it clear on the standards they have for their new men's head basketball coach.
“Nacogdoches and this campus are unique places. It’s very important that the coach can not only be a great X's and O's coach, can coach in recruiting and all those things you look into a coach, but how does he fit into the community? Will he interact with the community? Will he get involved with the campus?” said Hill.
While the Underwood era has come to a close, the success the program has held is something Hill looks to continue to flourish. There’s no turning back now.
“We don't want to be that SFA flash in the pan. We want to be in every tournament with people saying ‘Well there’s SFA in the tournament again. I wonder who they'll upset this time,’” said Hill.
Hill said they would prefer to have a head coach by the end of April but will take the time they need to find the right guy for the job.
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