Antigua’s success as an assistant only overshadowed by trials as a head coach

Antigua’s success as an assistant only overshadowed by trials as a head coach

CHAMPAIGN — Two narratives run parallel in most any discussion about Orlando Antigua.

There’s Antigua, the highly-regarded recruiter responsible for helping Kentucky land first-round pick after first-round pick. And there’s Antigua, the former South Florida coach who was fired midway through the 2016-17 season with a 23-55 record in 2 1/2 seasons and an NCAA investigation into alleged academic fraud, leaving a serious cloud hanging over the Bulls program.

The former was one of the reasons new Illinois coach Brad Underwood added Antigua to his first Illini coaching staff. The latter was a topic of conversation between the two — and athletic director Josh Whitman — before the hire was made.

“I would have not been doing my job if those conversations hadn’t happened,” Underwood said. “Not only myself, but we had conversations with Josh, and he did his part. We vet everybody. I know him as a person. Those are the reasons we went through that process because of who he is as a human being.”

Underwood built his first Illinois coaching staff largely from the outside. Three support staffers followed him from Oklahoma State, but his assistants — Antigua, Jamall Walker and Ron “Chin” Coleman — have never worked with him before.

“You know strengths and weaknesses of people you’ve worked with,” Underwood said. “When you haven’t, you’ve got to examine and watch.”

Underwood said he watched Walker coach as much as he did his new team play in Illinois’ two NIT games after his hire. He knew Walker since recruiting the Illini assistant when he was in high school, but wanted to know more about Walker as a coach.

Underwood said he did the same with Antigua, who he first knew of during Antigua’s playing days at Pittsburgh — jokingly adding he aged himself by revealing that — and got to know him more on the recruiting trail and at Under Armour events when he was at Stephen F. Austin and Antigua at USF.

“I knew him as a person and knew what he was able to accomplish professionally, but you want to make sure it fits in every aspect,” Underwood said. “You do your due diligence. I try to hire guys that are smarter than me. I try to hire guys that are better than me, to be honest.”

Few coaches were better on the recruiting trail than Antigua when he was an assistant under John Calipari at both Memphis and Kentucky. Five straight No. 1 recruiting classes for the Wildcats were built with Antigua helping secure commitments from eventual first-round picks like Willie Cauley-Stein, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Brandon Knight, Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle, Marquis Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns.

“Orlando is a national guy,” Underwood said. “When he walks in the gym, everybody knows him. He’s got such a dynamic personality. He’s magnetic in terms of not just with young people, but with adults as well. He’s got a presence about him.”

But that’s only part of why Underwood wanted to hire Antigua. For Underwood, fit in terms of coaching staff includes family. His wife, Susan, and Antigua’s wife, Dana, got to know each other at those same Under Armour events.

“He’s a family guy,” Underwood said. “He’s got a wonderful wife. ... Our families are very involved in our program. Those things were easy. The personalities fit.”

Underwood finalized his assistant coaches Wednesday, snaring Coleman away from Illinois-Chicago. Stephen Gentry was also officially added as assistant to the head coach as well.

But there might be one more position to fill. Underwood said he could add another support staffer to handle social media and assist Gentry and video coordinator Patrick Schulte with video breakdown and analytics.

“I think there’s a tremendous need today in being able to handle and manage social media with players and with recruits,” Underwood said. “We’re allowed today to like and retweet and do all those things.

There’s challenges with myself in particular to have enough time to do that.

“I’m not near creative enough to understand that either. I have to ask my daughters things. ... That will probably be the last position I hire.”


Familiar position

New Illinois assistant and former South Florida coach Orlando Antigua has plenty of company in the Big Ten among the head coach-to-assistant coach ranks:

Ed Conroy, Minnesota
Longtime coach went 49-76 in four seasons at The Citadel and 92-103 in six seasons at Tulane.

Dave Dickerson, Ohio State
Thad Matta’s associate head coach went 71-85 in five seasons at Tulane.

Sherman Dillard, Iowa
James Madison alum resigned after three years at Indiana State for seven seasons with Dukes.

Billy Donlon, Michigan
Former UNC-Wilmington guard joined Wolverines after six seasons at Wright State (109-94).

Dane Fife, Michigan State
Former Indiana guard went 82-47 in six seasons at IPFW after getting job as 25-year-old.

Bruiser Flint, Indiana
New Hoosiers assistant compiled 331-289 record in five seasons at UMass and 15 at Drexel.

Mike Garland, Michigan State
Longtime Spartans assistant spent three seasons leading Cleveland State to 23-60 record.

Greg Gary, Purdue
Two-year stop and 16-44 record at Centenary lone stint as head coach for former Tulane guard.

Karl Hobbs, Rutgers
Former UConn guard went 166-129 with three A-10 titles in 10 seasons at George Washington.

Jeff Meyer, Michigan
Guided Liberty in transition to Division I and went 259-206 in 16 seasons with Flames.

Jim Molinari, Nebraska
Went 263-244 in 20 seasons at Northern Illinois, Bradley, Minnesota and Western Illinois.

Howard Moore, Wisconsin
Former Badgers forward split stints at alma mater with 49-111 record in six seasons at UIC.

Ed Schilling, Indiana
Former Miami (Ohio) guard led Wright State to a 75-93 overall record in six seasons.

Kirk Speraw, Iowa
Seventeen seasons at UCF (247-233) makes up nearly half of former Iowa guard’s coaching career.

Cliff Warren, Jacksonville
Nine seasons and 126-150 record with Dolphins predated Maryland native’s return.