Holder Not Wrong About About OSU Status, But Therein Lies The Problem

[PFB]

Oklahoma State’s basketball program has a big problem. A really big problem if I’m reading between the lines correctly. Berry Tramel got the goods on the Brad Underwood-Mike Holder negotiations, and it was not pretty.

Here’s Tramel for The Oklahoman on how the negotiations between Brad Underwood and Mike Holder went.

If not, the dagger came a few minutes later. When discussing the value of OSU basketball on campus, the source said, Holder told Underwood he was asking for Final Four-type money and that the Cowboys currently are on a level of Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas State in the Big 12.

“He was going to Illinois the moment Holder said that to him,” the source said. “What he was looking for, Holder’s vision for the program, ‘I believe you can get us up to KU and Bill Self and blah-blah,’ and that just wasn’t what he heard.”

Kyle Cox wrote about how Holder leveraged Travis Ford’s wins vs. Underwood’s wins against Underwood which is also kind of weak (although not factually incorrect), but I want to talk about the comparison to those other Big 12 schools.

I wrote about this a bit on Saturday, but Mike Holder has backed himself into a corner with this negotiation.

Of course Oklahoma State is on the same level as the Kansas States, Texas Techs and Iowa States of the world (and that’s an insult to Iowa State). But a lot of that is because of what Travis Ford did and not Brad Underwood.

Oklahoma State has one NCAA Tournament win since 2006. That’s egregious. It is not a good program right now. Not even the best basketball program in the state.

The problem here is that it doesn’t even really seem like Holder wants to be great. To be great, you have to pay really well. You have to pay for trajectories, not past performance. If you’re paying on past performance your guy is already gone to a better school (like what happened this week). You’re perpetually Texas Tech or Kansas State.

Holder is clearly still spooked by the Travis Ford contract (the contract that sunk an athletic department!), and I don’t really blame him, but now what? Do you just re-start the process? Let’s say Holder hires the Middle Tennessee or South Alabama coach. There are two paths that coach can take.

Path 1: He stinks and OSU sort of wallows at the bottom of the Big 12 for years and years and years.

Path 2: He’s awesome. The next step is that he asks for a big raise, Holder balks and all of a sudden Mr. South Alabama is coaching real Alabama for $2.5 million a year.

Do you see the pattern here? To become great at anything, you have to invest in the future. This is economics 101. I’ve gone through this with this very site recently. Is it scary to hand over a lot of money each month to writers and photographers when I don’t know how well the site is going to do? Hell yes it is. But to become better I have to invest in the future.

Holder wouldn’t do that with Underwood which makes you wonder who he would do it with. Did Underwood go a little far in how much he asked for? Probably (and I still don’t necessarily blame Holder for not paying it).

Not every coach is going to do that, but this will become the new reality as conferences go separate ways in terms of revenue. Plus the cost of starting over is extremely high.

To me, though, the issue is more with the mentality of, “Here at OSU we’re going to pay for past performance and not future results like we did for Travis Ford. We learned our lesson from him.” That’s never going to get you anywhere.

The way Holder handled this tells me one of three things:

  1. Holder doesn’t believe Underwood is great (I don’t really believe this)
  2. Holder doesn’t necessarily care if OSU is elite at hoops — good enough is good enough.
  3. Holder believes there is a coach out there who can make OSU elite and then ask for a Final Four-worthy contract.

Scenario No. 3 is plausible, but you might be chasing a unicorn (also, in this case Doug Gottlieb would be the hire). If Holder believes this wholeheartedly then I’m good with him turning Underwood down.

Scenario No. 2 is feasible, too. If you think the ceiling is as a top 30ish team then you can probably get there other ways than by paying Underwood $3 million a season. There is a budget to balance after all. I think I’m all right with this. As Travis Ford proved, though, being a consistent top 30 team isn’t as easy as it seems. But Underwood asked for the moon.

I suppose as an OSU fan I’m OK with scenario No. 2, but I’m concerned about how difficult it is to get and stay there. Again, OSU has one NCAA Tournament win since 2006.

I think scenario No. 2 actually aligns with Holder’s goals — be pretty good at hoops, go to some Sweet 16s and keep costs down. I think the economics of college hoops in 2017 is complicated and he’s worried about having a pricey coach. I’m not sure I blame him.

But now OSU is in a weird spot. Finding that unicorn is hard, and OSU is not a good enough job to lure a big boy that Holder might find worthy of paying which means you’re left with enticing lesser coaches who are trying to climb the ladder.

Underwood just proved that the rungs extend far beyond Stillwater for much more money which leaves OSU fans wondering where in the world you go from here.


  • David Einstein

    We aren’t Kansas. Only UNC, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA and Indiana are on that level. There’s literally nothing wrong with being an Iowa State level program with better history.

    • TK_1

      Yeah, ISU has had a lot of success. I’d take that at the moment.

      • SingingCowboy

        Loser attitude. We better believe we are better than Iowa State. I was there when we beat St Joes to go to the Final Four. You’re right saying we’re not UNC, Kentucky, Duke, or Kansas. But we can darn sure be a Michigan State, a Villanova, or a Florida. Not blue bloods with storied tradition, but winners of the big dance nonetheless. Plus, we do have two NC banners and 6 Filnal Fours. We can and must do better.

        • TK_1

          Can be? Yes. Anywhere close to that right now? No way (1 tourney win in 10 years). I’d take ISU right now any day of the week over what our program has become. Once you get to that level then you can hope to move on up to the Michigan State, ‘Nova level schools.

        • DataAddict

          Loser attitude? OK. Sure, pal.

          Like you, I was also there in 2004. What about it?

          Talking tough is easy. Making it actually happen is USUALLY expensive, VERY expensive.

          TOO expensive.

          Holder handled this correctly, contrary to how some of oSu’s fans want to believe.

          • Pokes405
          • DataAddict

            Uh, yeah . . . and by the way, Porter pointed out Trammel’s account of events in his PFB article.

            Anyway, assuming Trammel’s account reflects something approaching reality, Underwood sounds like a prima donna and Illinois has way more money than foresight (it IS kinda their “thing”).

          • Pokes405

            Yeah it does makes Brad look like a baby. But I blame both sides, Holder still blew it. Bad, bad look for him and OSU. Paying the man and giving him a 3-4 year contract would have been just fine. The length of the Travis Ford contract was the issue, not the amount of money. A 3-4 year contract isn’t making the same mistake.

          • DataAddict

            Eh, I don’t like gambling on greedy babies. They tend to be fickle.

          • carl lamar

            Wrong. If you fill GIA up 10-12 times a season the revenues will pay the bills.

          • DataAddict

            OK then.

      • OKsailor

        Hoiberg made 2.2mil and Prohm made 1.5mil this last year.

  • Kevin

    We shouldn’t worry about a new coach until we have a new AD!

    • DataAddict

      OK.

      . . . with what magical pot of gold?

  • TK_1

    I don’t see what you’ve got to lose by hiring Doug at this point. You can’t become a coach stepping stone program. Hell, the Iowa State comp even breaks down there. At least Hoiberg left for the NBA. Not some also ran big ten team.

    • Alec M

      Money and time. If it doesn’t work out then you’ve waisted several student’s precious time.

      You don’t want to be a couch stepping stone. You also don’t want to become a coach career starter school

      • Michael H

        There is a risk of any coach that you hire not working out. I would argue we wasted our time and money paying Underwood for just one season. With Gottlieb you at least know that he’s not going to jump ship after a year or two, and there’s something to be said for having consistency within your program. Hiring one highly regarded alumnus with a strong basketball pedigree, ties to the program and the recruiting landscape, and an array of connections within the sport hardly pigeon-holes you as a “career starter school.”

        • Alec M

          How do we know he doesn’t jump ship. That can’t really be used as an argument. We all thought Underwood would be long term.

          Doug talks the big talk but can he deliver? We don’t know. Will he stay if he does deliver? We don’t know.

          • Michael H

            It absolutely can be used as an argument if he is saying point blank that it’s his dream job. And even if you choose to believe he is lying, who do you think of all the candidates is most likely to stay long term? The mid-major coach who is currently jumping ship to a bigger/better program, or the guy who went to school at OSU and has actual ties there? The problems you’re attributing to Gottlieb can be attributed to every other candidate, not just him.

          • Alec M

            I agree. But I am very skeptical now after Underwood was saying the exact same things one year ago.

            As far as likelihood, yes Doug is the most likely to stay long term. I just wish we had something we could point at that shows he’ll be good at coaching

    • Christian Baker

      He’s never coached. If coaching were really what he wanted to do, he’d be doing it. Doug should be the absolute last option. We might not be KU or of that level, but we’re hardly a program that needs to take on coaches that have literally never coached before. He needs to cut his teeth somewhere else, and prove he can coach before he gets a gig like OSU.

      • Michael H

        Gottlieb has had multiple coaching offers as both an assistant and a head coach, and he has repeatedly said that he would not uproot his current lifestyle except for a handful of positions across the country. He has a vision of OSU being a top tier basketball school and the number of people who think that way about our program is dwindling. We don’t have the ability to make a splashy, fail-proof hire so why not give it to the guy who you know is committed to the program and the university for the long term?

  • OrangeTuono

    AD Mike Holder operates like an accountant, not a leader. He’s an old school “manage down” bureaucrat that is quite ok doing little or nothing to enable his field general’s to be successful. He’s quite ok having contentious relationships with his field generals – the field generals that build programs and get the job done day-in-day at nationally competitive levels.

    This is yet another example of a small minded “cost accountant” that is simply outclassed and outmaneuvered time and time again on the sports that matter.

    Time for OSU to get a “next level” Athletic Director. AD Holder has proven that he’s not capable.

    • David Einstein

      He literally took us to the next level as a program.

      • Matt Hackler

        Holder is abrasive with his coach’s and alumni, unless your name is Pickens. Any wonder why Gundy hasn’t signed his contract yet, because Holders superiority complex and ego are what’s in the way of smart business decisions and now preventing Okstate from getting to the next level. Gundy hasn’t signed because he wants a say in scheduling and who can blame him, a head coach should have a say of who they play and for Holder to not give here is beyond belief!

        • Riley Sutton

          He also had a ton of problems getting along with Eddie Sutton. I think he wishes that he was the top Stillwater “Celebrity” but he never will be, and he resents guys like Eddie and Gundy that are beloved by Stillwater.

          • Matt Hackler

            True! Holder never liked the fact that Sutton stole his thunder when Holder was head golf coach, so it was a constant power struggle! Hence why Scott Sutton will never be a coach at Okstate as long as Holder is AD! Again, his ego is getting in the way of OSU getting to the next level!

          • Mr. Roboto

            Scott Sutton hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 9 years. Why on Earth would we want him? Because he’s a Sutton? What does he bring to the table, other than a mediocre record? His candidacy isn’t mentioned outside of OSU blogs or message boards because it’s a joke to anyone with common sense.

          • Matt Hackler

            Wow, you really missed the POINT, even if Scott Sutton was winning his conference every year and going deep into the NCAA tourney, a Sutton will NEVER be a basketball coach at Okstate while Holder is there!

          • Mr. Roboto

            A Sutton will never be a coach at OSU anyway because only one of them was any good at it. Sean sucked out loud and Scott is utterly forgettable. It wouldn’t matter who the AD happened to be. Holder is just saving us from another embarassment.

          • OKsailor

            What makes you sure that Holder’s ego is any worse than any of these folks? Gundy, Underwood, etc are all successful, driven people with egos. Somehow Holder deals with Gundy, Smith, Holliday, etc but Underwood could not deal with Holder? Gundy may have issues during his negotiations with Holder but somehow they come to an agreement and he is still here. It seems like Underwood heard something he didn’t like and bolted instead of grinding it out. Seems a little weird to me considering what he asks from his players. Of course, maybe he just wanted money and to be told he was the bestest and everything else is just a smokescreen.

          • Matt Hackler

            Uh….Gundy still hasn’t signed his contract! Or has that been lost on you?

            Holder is abrasive with his coaches and alumni, unless your name is Pickens! He has a reputation for being something of a control freak and egomaniac! Has Holder done good things for Okstate, sure he has and I am grateful for it along with many other of my fellow alums! He has already admitted he made a mistake in his dealings with Underwood, but that is water under the bridge now and our program has become a stepping stone to the next job for anyone who follows in Underwoods footsteps! Holder has been at Okstate for 35 years, it may be time for him to retire and give someone else the reigns.

      • Christian Baker

        TBP did that, Holder just gets credit for being the guy that was standing there when TBP donated half a billion dollars. Holder’s ego or whatever is what cost us Underwood, and Holder’s poor decision making is what stuck us with Ford. He’s also the one with a sour relationship with Gundy. Holder thinks any success we have is due to him, when in reality it’s in spite of him.

    • Hackleman poke

      I don’t know about this. We just finished top 10 in football. Top 3 in wrestling. Top 4 in baseball. Top 2 in women’s tennis. We r top 5 in men’s tennis this year. Men cross country won big 12 w women finishing 2nd. Basketball just went dancing.

      Because of holder we have Karsten, BPS, indoor practice. During Holder we built new tennis and track. About to have new soccer and baseball. Hearing rumblings of new softball.

      Also look at how he handled the si debacle.

      We have amazing coaches, staff and admin across the board.

      Not defending his management style or personal skills but he does have some part in all of the above.

      • Kevin

        Every school is going thru the same facility renaissance with these big tv contracts. Minnesota, Baylor, Kansas, etc. Holder shouldn’t get all the credit for those buildings. Anyone would have done the same thing from all the $$$$$.

        • Fred

          No. Have you been to Lawrence and seen their football “stadium”?

          • DataAddict

            . . . I mean . . . it’s pretty OK for a win-less squad…

        • DataAddict

          You’d trade with Minnesota, Baylor, and Kansas right now? REALLY?

          OK, buddy.

          Holder didn’t f#ck this up. Illinois did by having more money than foresight and this is NOTHING NEW. In fact, it is kind of their “tradition.”

          Go ahead, Google it. I’ll wait.

          • Kevin

            Clearly you guys are reading my post through the wrong prism. I’m not saying I want to be those other school. My point was with regards to the facilities in the original post. Every college campus has new facilities. Even Kansas. Their football stadium is vastly improved in the last few years. Rockchalk Park on the west side of town is top notch. Minnesota has a brand new stadium and indoor practice field. TV money has injected money into every campus across the country. Claiming Holder is the reason our facilities have dramatically improved is fools gold. Terry Don Phillips would have had the same luck.

          • DataAddict

            Clearly, you’re assuming I worship Holder.

            I don’t. He gambled on Ford. It burned him, us, and Pickens. Pickens consequently tightened Holder’s leash.

            No more “house money” to gamble with.

            This is reality.

          • Kevin

            I never thought that. Good luck keeping all your message strings straight Dataaddict.

          • DataAddict

            Good luck with that deflection.

          • Kevin

            Why do you worship holder so much? Are you his wife?

          • DataAddict

            Zero originality points for you.

            Try harder.

          • Chuck

            Why are you always shouting with caps? Somebody must be compensating for a small one.

          • DataAddict

            CAPS = emphasis, not shouting. Or is there an italics formatting option that I’m missing?

            “Compensating for a small one?”

            Why are YOU talking about c0cks?

            Stay focused, bro.

    • Tyler

      You can hate holder all you want. Yes he’s a jerk and yes he’s made mistakes (nobody is perfect) but Oklahoma State isn’t what it is without Holder, Boone, and Gundy.

      • OrangeTuono

        Holder is a fine man but he’s not really firing on all cylinders with respect to basketball. You can argue that his relationship with Gundy is pretty poor but Gundy plows through to make OSU football much better that it is funded.

        • Tyler

          And I’m not arguing that. I do think it might be time to change ADs. But to say he hasn’t brought OSU to another level is ridiculous to me

          • OrangeTuono

            Tyler – You’re doing some “projection” here. First, I don’t “hate” Holder. Second, he’s done a fine job for OSU. And I also think he’s simply not the AD to take OSU to the next level. If it weren’t for Coach Gundy’s fortitude in the face of poor management by Holder, our football program would be in continual turmoil, just like our basketball program.
            So in summary – Great job Mike Holder. Please focus solely on fund raising through the foundation and let’s hire progress minded Athletic Director.

            P.S. If you screw up the “money sports” (football, basketball), you have no money to work with. And Holder has done very poorly with both basketball and football.

  • Pokes

    You don’t get to the top and then get a great coach. You find one and pay him to get to the top. It’s called INVESTING!!

    • David Einstein

      You go broke in business by overpaying too.

      • Matt Hackler

        With risk comes reward, if Holder is still reeling from the Ford contract them that is on him alone as he is the moron who offered it in the first place! Time for a new AD

        • DataAddict

          . . . a new AD, but with the same financial boundaries.

          And yeah, great risk, great reward, blah blah blah.

          But great risk IS GREAT RISK. And Underwood’s current trajectory hardly implied “greatness” was afoot.

          Holder learned from his past f#ck-up. You and others, obviously, have NOT.

          • Stephen

            Holders mistake was that he gave ford an insanely long contract with no buyout. You could have still gave Underwood around that money with shorter time frame and smart buyout for the school to protect it if/when results didn’t come. So in that regard, no, he didn’t really learn from his past screw up.

          • DataAddict

            Of course Holder f#cked up on Ford. On that same note, him refusing to pony up Final Four dough for sub-Ford results this time around is VERY reasonable.

            . . . and then Illinois called saying, “HEY, we WILL pay you for sub-Ford results!”

            . . . and Holder said, “alright, sure, go ahead and do that [AGAIN], LOL.”

          • Matt Hackler

            The problem with your argument, is we did see GREAT IMPROVEMENT in Okstate basketball compared to Ford! Turned around an 0-6 seue play to end up number 5 in the toughest league in the country, at least for this year! First NCAA appearance in years, yeah…we were headed in the right direction. Was there more room for improvement…of course there was, but the guy arrived in Stillwater in March 2016, so in less than one year he was just getting started! At the end of the day, Underwood handled it poorly, but Holder is solely responsible for this, he knew Underwood had two other serious contenders for Underwood and he still lowballed the guy! Do I think the guy was worth the $3mil he was offered, I do not know, but you are only worth what someone is willing to pay.

          • DataAddict

            . . . OK, so not even you’re sure as to how you’d of dealt with Underwood given the situation?

          • Matt Hackler

            Underwood told Holder he wanted avg big 12 salary, which would have been $2.7Mil and Holder balked and Underwood bolted! He was worth that….in lieu of losing all momentum and starting over!

          • DataAddict

            You and Illinois say he was worth it. Holder and I don’t. 🙂

          • Chuck

            Again with the shouting. It must be really small.

          • DataAddict

            CAPS is emphasis, not shouting. If I had formatting options to work with I’d of used italics.

          • JB

            You have an odd fixation.

          • DataAddict

            LOL, he does . . . but I’ve seen odder.

          • Matt Hackler

            Holders f#ck-up is 100% on him, as Stephen stated, you could have given Underwood close to what he asked for, but a 10 year contract is STUPID for anyone to receive! In this case, Holder hasn’t learned a thing, he compounds one really bad mistake with a really horrible one…and the fans/alumni are the ones paying the price!

          • DataAddict

            Yeah, I agree that the “Travesty” is all on him. But Illinois upping the ante didn’t help . . . at all.

            They basically called up Underwood saying, “Bro, we WILL pay you Final Four cash-money for sub-Ford results!!!”

    • Tyler

      Same thing could have been said about Travis Ford…

      • Pokes

        Travis ford wasnt the 2nd quickest to 100 career wins nor taking a team to the tourney in his first year with 5 freshman and two sophomores in the rotation.

  • StillOriginal

    This whole what could of been with Underwood reminds of what could of been with the Thunder if they never traded Harden. The Thunder was a dynasty that never was, but could of been. It’s a damn shame. The same goes for Underwood. For me, it depends who Holder hires as this Universities next coach.

    • DataAddict

      Hardly comparable.

      And, by the way, OKC might have reconsidered had Harden learned to balance his offensive skill set with something AT LEAST APPROACHING defensive competence.

      . . . as I recall, Harden’s defence is STILL NONEXISTENT.

      • StillOriginal

        They didn’t draft him because of his defense or does half the players in the league play solid defense. He’s arguably number one in the MVP race. And so are the players who try and defend him.

        • DataAddict

          Fair enough. But Houston is currently paying out the nose for Carmelo v2.5.

          No thanks.

          P.S. I don’t know WTF happened with KD. So whatever on that.

  • Stephen J

    Porter, you have to stop defending him! He clearly has champagne taste with a walmart budget. It seems holder is doing the same thing with the football program as well. I assume he told gundy you’re asking for OU Texas money for you and your assistants but you have to realize our program is at k state’s level. I always thought the budget was low because we just recruited Texas and Oklahoma. But now I think holder told gundy that’s all he can do.

  • Matthew Haffner

    At least Underwood didn’t leave for K-State.

  • JeffB

    Underwood wanted top 10 $$. We weren’t paying that. Everything else is chatter.

    • Tyler

      Wanted 3 mil we didn’t feel like he deserved it so he found a school who wanted to pay him. Simple as that.

  • OKsailor

    Why does Roy Williams only make 2mil? Are they not investing in their future? Or does Roy just want to be there? Maybe we should go after him and offer 2.5mil?

    • Tyler

      Lol C’mon man Roy has MAYBE 2 years left at most. He’s had a lot of health problems this year.

  • Big D

    I actually don’t feel that Holder was all the way wrong on this one. In hindsight, had he known how serious it was, he probably would’ve handled it a little differently. But Underwood just lept to the power 5 this year. He had a good year, but the ened result was no different than what Travis Ford was doing. It would’ve been too reactionary to just cough up the cash and assume you were gonna reach new heights. Its entirely possible he never would have. Underwood just wasn’t who we thought he was. I was suspicious of his loyalty to begin with. The dude was a yankee with no real OSU ties. Why not Illinois?

    • Fred

      Yankee? He’s from central Kansas. 2.5 hours North of Stillwater.

      • Big D

        North of mason dixon,union state= yankee

  • FreeDrop

    Listen up folks: if Brad Underwood is the type of guy who talks about being buried in Stillwater someday and then turns around and takes another job the DAY AFTER losing in the first round of the NCAAs, then I didn’t want him here anyway. He doesn’t have OSU character.

    Holder does. I stand with the AD on this one!

    • Kevin

      There’s more to the issue than fallout from failed contract negotiations. I’m guessing Holder is an a-hole. Underwood probably wasn’t crazy about leaving. He’s a smart guy and knows recruits see him bailing after one year. He’s going to have to overcome that on the recruiting trail. It will haunt him with those kids as other coaches will use it against him for years. But I’m guessing he sacrificed his reputation to leave a toxic environment with a jerk of a boss. We all have bad bosses, he’s just lucky enough to be able to capitalize on his skills better than most of us. We’ll never know the true story. But watching the failed Gundy contract talks year after year, I’m leaning that Holder is the bigger problem.

      • FreeDrop

        Well, Holder’s my a-hole. Underwood is a mercenary a-hole.

  • Cowboydroid

    Holder dug this hole by hiring Ford and then extending his contract.

    All he’s done is dig it deeper.

  • Tyler

    This comes down to Holder saying OSU is average right now and him feeling like Underwood didn’t deserve to be paid final four type money.

    Underwood threw a fit after Holder told him the truth and found a school to pay him final four money.

    Holder is wrong for letting Underwood go and Underwood is wrong for handling it so unprofessionally.

  • Nicholas D.

    This. “‘Here at OSU we’re going to pay for past performance and not future
    results like we did for Travis Ford. We learned our lesson from him.’
    That’s never going to get you anywhere.”

    And yes. “But now OSU is in a weird spot. Finding that unicorn is hard…”

  • carl lamar

    You can’t fill up a 13,600 seat arena without a top 20 bball program competing for conf championships & making runs in the NCAA Tourney every couple years. Why build it if your goal isn’t to fill it up?

  • Mike Higley

    We aren’t a Kansas, Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina, that is true. We’re not even close. BUT, we were. Mr. Iba had OSU in that same class at one time. He sacrificed a lot to get us there. Mr. Sutton had us headed in that direction as well, but circumstances changed all of that. So, now what? We had it….we want it back.