Birthdate: October 12, 1941
Birthplace: Erlanger, Kentucky
High School: Lloyd HS (Erlanger, KY)
Colleges: Tennessee Tech (1964); Western Kentucky (1965)
Died: September 8, 2011
Year Inducted: 2021
Ralph Underhill led Wright State University to the 1983 NCAA Division II championship, a dream season that also saw him named National Coach of the Year. In 18 seasons at WSU, he amassed a school-record 356 wins and mentored some of the best players in school history, including all-time leading scorer Bill Edwards.
Underhill grew up in Erlanger, Kent., and graduated from Lloyd High School, where he lettered four times each in basketball, football, track and baseball. He then played collegiate basketball and ran track for Tennessee Tech, located in Cookeville, Tenn. As a junior, he was part of a team that won the Ohio Valley Conference championship. Still, coaching called to him as a young man.
After earning an undergraduate degree in health and physical education from Tennessee Tech, Underhill pursued a Master of Arts degree in guidance and education in 1965 from Western Kentucky University while serving as a graduate assistant basketball coach. That led to a foray into high school basketball coaching as he guided the boys teams at Ohio County High School in Hartford, Kent., and at Louisville Manual High School. His first collegiate coaching job was as an assistant coach under Ron Shumate at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Wright State brought Underhill aboard for the 1978-79 season, and he remained as men’s head coach until 1996, walking away with an 18-year mark of 356-162 (.687). In a 10-year span, the Raiders advanced to a total of seven Division II regional appearances before the program elevated to the Division I level in 1987–88.
Underhill was recognized with three Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year awards in addition to being named Division II Coach of the Year once. Among the many All-Americans Underhill recruited to Wright State are Roman Welch (1980), Rodney Benson (1981), Gary Monroe (1983), Fred Moore (1984), Mark Vest (1985 and ’86), Grant Marion (1986), Andy Warner (1986) and Vitaly Potapenko (1996), who enjoyed a productive NBA career.
Underhill enters the Hall posthumously; he died Sept. 8, 2011 at the age of 70.