Antigua plans to build on past experiences in second stint at UK


University of Illinois file phto

Orlando Antigua is prepared to begin his second stint with the Wildcats.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — Orlando Antigua developed a greater appreciation for his former boss during his time away from the University of Kentucky.

Since leaving the Wildcats seven years ago, Antigua spent nearly three years running his own program at South Florida and had been been an assistant coach at Illinois under Brad Underwood for the past four seasons.

“I’ve got a better appreciation now having had the opportunity to sit in that seat (head coach),” he said. “To know, not quite know, but a better idea of what is coming at (John Calipari), what he has to do, and our jobs as assistants is to try and take things off his plate. We need to figure out tomorrow’s news yesterday. “

Antigua will serve as an associate coach under Calipari beginning next season. As he prepares for his second stint with the Wildcats, Antigua wants to help the coaching staff “get back too working really hard, working together and being a players-first program.” 

We’re looking to doing all of those things and just hitting the pavement and trying to find and identify kids that are going to want the pleasure of the pressure, which is what it is being at Kentucky,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to want to take on that challenge, live up to that challenge and allow us to push you through so that you can go out and shine and chase your dreams, and in that process we go out and win a lot of games.”

During his previous five seasons with the Wildcats, Antigua was part of a coaching staff that compiled a 152-37 record and made three Final Four appearances, including a national championship in 2012. He also served as one of the top recruiters in the Calipari era at Kentucky and plans on building on that success this time around.

“Will we get some? I hope so,” he said. “Will we miss on some? Probably. The landscape has changed. We have all of these new dynamics that are in play. Well, we’re going to try and manage it as best we can.”

Unlike his previous two stops, Antigua said Calipari’s reputation and the school’s rich history help make the Wildcats an easy sell on the recruiting trail.

“We have a Hall of Fame coach that you can go out and talk about,” he saiid. “When you have a program with the history and the success that we have here at Kentucky, those are all great things to talk about to kids and families.”

The veteran coach added that he plans own “staying on the ground” and establish relationships with the players.

“(Im plan on) staying connected with just people in the basketball world and our relationships, and doing those kinds of things so we can better serve him and make sure that (Calipari is) prepared for everything.”

Antigua said his experiences in life helped prepare him for his future battles on and off the court. Antigua survived shooting in 1988, where he was shot near his left eye. He recovered and went on to play three seasons for the University of Pittsburgh and then played for the Harlem Globetrotters, where he gained the nickname, “Hurricane.” Antigua is known for having an uplifting and positive spirit on and off the court.

“It’s who I am,” he said. “It’s who I’ve been. Obviously, the things that I’ve experienced in my life has allowed me to have a great appreciation for life, for opportunities. And having gone through a lot of challenging obstacles being able to keep things in perspective, understanding that you want to be around good people, you want to surround yourself around good people. “