Illinois football parted ways with former head coach Lovie Smith on Sunday after he was on the job for five seasons. He went 17-39 overall and 10-33 in Big Ten play as head coach of the Fighting Illini.

After he was fired, Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood offered some strong praise of Smith, and here’s what he had to say (via Jeremy Werner of 247Sports):

“I got so much respect for Lovie,” Underwood said. “Tremendous, tremendous human being. I think he was a great leader of men. I respect the fact of all that he’s accomplished.

“It’s always a sad day. As fellow coaches, you hate to see people not be successful or become unemployed. That’s tough. The one thing I know is I’ll always have a friend and we’ll continue to talk through this process and beyond.”

It’s always a tough day when a coach is fired out of a program and it’s great to see how much Underwood respected Lovie for what he did for it and how great of a person he is.

Now, Illinois will begin its search for a new football head coach while Underwood tries to lead the hoops team to a strong season. So far, the Illini appeared poised for a deep March run with Underwood at the helm.