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Kentucky's Antigua hired as Bulls coach

Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, widely considered the behind-the-scenes catalyst of the Wildcats' astounding run of recent recruiting success, will be formally introduced as USF's ninth men's basketball coach Tuesday.

The school confirmed the hiring Monday afternoon. Antigua replaces Stan Heath, dismissed March 14 after compiling a 97-130 record in seven seasons.

Terms of his contract weren't immediately released, but ESPN reported he received a five-year deal. He'll remain with the Wildcats through the end of their current Final Four run before starting his new job.

He becomes the first Bulls coach without prior head coaching experience since Chip Conner (1975).

"I said from the beginning of this search, we were looking for a great leader, a great communicator, a proven record of being able to recruit and develop players, and someone who will represent USF with exceptional energy and integrity,” new USF athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement released by the school.

"We have found all of that and more in Orlando Antigua." …

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No sleeper team: Bulls travel all night after WNIT triumph

In the 14 or so hours after USF sophomore Courtney Williams' game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Sunday evening's WNIT quarterfinals at Mississippi State, the Bulls barely slept.

Not that they had a choice.

Adrenalin didn't keep USF's players, coaches and staffers awake nearly as much as the grueling odyssey of bus rides and flight delays that immediately followed their 60-58 triumph.

After addressing the media, showering and changing in Humphrey Coliseum, the Bulls boarded a bus for a two-hour trip north to Memphis, where they had hotel reservations. It's a safe bet many spent the time watching this footage of Williams' game-winning trey.

But no sooner than they unpacked their toiletry bags in Memphis, they were gone, leaving for the airport at 4 a.m.

Upon arriving, they learned their flight would be delayed due to a technical issue. Mark Heise, the Bulls' sports information director for women's hoops, said the team -- and all other passengers -- had to wait for the maintenance person to arrive at the airport to rectify the problem.

They finally departed at 7:30 a.m. CST, arriving back in Tampa at around 10 EST. …

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Josh Heath leaving USF

Sixteen days after he was dismissed as USF men's basketball coach, Stan Heath announced his son also is leaving the program.

Freshman PG Josh Heath, a former Tampa Prep standout who was starting by season's end, has been granted his release from USF and is exploring his transfer options.

Heath will be immediately eligible at his future school, his dad said. NCAA rules require players transferring within Division I to sit out a year, but Stan Heath said waivers previously have been approved for kids whose dads lost their coaching jobs.

Among Heath's possible options: Georgia Tech, Providence, Georgetown and Georgia State.

Initially expected to redshirt, Heath was thrust into action when junior PG Anthony Collins was sidelined by lingering complications from offseason knee surgery. In 17 games, Heath (2.6 ppg) totaled 62 assists and 27 turnovers, a plus-2.3 ratio.

Had he played in enough games to qualify, the ratio would've ranked third in the American Athletic Conference.

Whether Josh Heath's departure represents a beginning or end to the Bulls' offseason exodus remains uncertain. USF still is seeking a replacement for Stan Heath after negotiations with two candidates -- Manhattan's Steve Masiello and UNLV's Dave Rice -- reportedly fell through.

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USF spring game: Extended notebook

TAMPA -- When the bay area downpour subsided and the clouds above Corbett Stadium finally dispersed Saturday, every sunbeam seemed to gravitate toward Bulls junior QB Steven Bench.

Working with three first-team receivers, the 6-foot-2 Penn State transfer enjoyed arguably his most shining moment as a Bull (19-for-24, 317 yards, three TDs) in the White team's 35-3 rout of the Green in USF's spring-ending intrasquad game.

"The White team was really crisp," Coach Willie Taggart said. "Steven did a good job of getting the ball to the receivers and getting it to them on time."

Entrenched as the backup to Mike White at the end of '13, Bench directed four scoring drives of at least 60 yards, including a 69-second, 60-yard march at the end of the first half that ended with a 5-yard TD to Chris Dunkley.

"I'd be dumb not to give (the offensive line) all the credit," said Bench, who threw TDs to three different receivers. "Those guys kept me safe back there and did a great job all day long from start to finish. I couldn't be more proud of those guys."

Afterward Taggart, who insisted at the outset of spring drills that no starting job is safe, said White (20-for-34, 174 yards) and Bench have been going "back and forth" all spring. …

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Report: Rice no longer a USF candidate

UNLV coach Dave Rice is no longer a candidate for the same job at USF, ESPN reported Saturday.

The report, which didn't cite its sources, indicated Rice had no "official offer" from USF but there was an understanding he could have the job. The sources said that is no longer the case.

Various reports Friday night from Las Vegas indicated Rice met with new Bulls athletic director Mark Harlan earlier in the day in Tampa. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Rice had received a six-year offer worth $1.3 million annually.

"Dave does have a solid offer from South Florida," UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday night. "I really think that (Saturday) we'll have it resolved."

USF would neither confirm any offer to Rice nor convey any interest level in the 45-year-old former Runnin' Rebels backup guard, who has guided UNLV to three consecutive 20-win seasons.

Friday marked two full weeks since Bulls coach Stan Heath was fired after compiling a 97-130 record in seven seasons. Where USF's search goes from here is uncertain; it has hired a Texas-based private firm to vet candidates.

The school reached an agreement in principle with Manhattan's Steve Masiello earlier this week before nixing the offer when it was revealed Masiello had lied on his resume.

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Bulls spring game: A few things to watch

Our observations of USF's spring workouts to this point have arrived in bits and chunks. While some practices have been open to reporters for the last half-hour or so, others have been open to anyone from start to finish. As a result, we've been able to see, hear and sense enough to offer some guidance on what to look for at Saturday's annual spring intrasquad game. Here goes:

Five things to watch
The o-line. Perhaps the most compelling testament to this unit's evolution is the fact that, at the Bulls' spring-game draft last weekend, four of the top five picks were offensive linemen. Based on the eye test, these guys are clearly brawnier. There's a reason QB Mike White has completed 70 percent of his passes this spring (according to Coach Willie Taggart).

Change of pace. Don't be stunned if the Bulls aren't whistled for even one delay-of-game penalty Saturday. Taggart and new offensive coordinator Paul Wulff have made tempo a priority this spring, and the offense has routinely snapped the ball with double digits remaining on the play clock.

Gadgetry. If the previous public scrimmages have revealed anything, the Bulls have mixed in some razzle and dazzle with the sweeps and screens. With potentially a few thousand watching in the cozy setting of Corbett Stadium, the Bulls likely will want to entertain.

A front three? To maximize his athletes and atone for less girth up front than last season, defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan has tinkered with a 3-4 look this spring. "We've got
some (3-4) principles in and we're going to use them to our advantage and let the athletes
run around a little bit," he said, "because we are a little bit smaller but more athletic."

Red zone efficiency. For an offense that struggled mightily in the red zone -- or any zone, for that matter -- last fall, displaying more poise and precision inside the 20 is essential.
   
Five players to watch
QB Steven Bench. Though Bench has logged some first-team work, most of his reps have come
with the second unit, which hasn't always provided the sturdiest protection. A split-squad setting should offer a fairer assessment of Bench's progress. Andre Davis, Deonte Welch and Chris Dunkley are on his team.

DE Demetrius Hill. Of the six early enrollees, Hill and former Pasco High star Jamie Byrd have clearly distinguished themselves and have earned extensive first-team work. Physically, Hill, who plays the defensive spot most gutted by graduation and early exits, looks the part of an NFL player now (6-foot-3, 270 pounds).

TE Sean Price. Though a bit overweight last fall, Price came on toward the end of the season and has shined most of the spring. Don't be surprised if he emerges as White's top target Saturday, and a few Saturdays beyond.

MLB Auggie Sanchez. Practically since Day One, coaches have been high on this Northeast High alum, who has converted from fullback and now seems the heir apparent to DeDe Lattimore.
Check out this story on the praise he's getting.

FB Kennard Swanson. An unheralded redshirt freshman entering spring drills, Swanson has drawn
raves recently, and scored a touchdown in last weekend's scrimmage. "You talk about big-time
improvement, this kid is really coming along," Taggart said. …

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Report: UNLV's Rice offered Bulls job

UNLV coach Dave Rice, a backup guard on the Runnin' Rebels' 1990 national title team who has led his alma mater to three consecutive 20-win seasons, reportedly has been offered the USF job.

The Las-Vegas Review Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that Rice interviewed in Tampa and was offered the job within the last 24 hours. The offer includes a five-year contract at $1.2 million per year.

Rice, 45, has three years remaining on a deal that pays him $700,000 annually. Despite a 70-31 record and two NCAA Tournament berths, he has taken local heat for under-achieving despite stellar recruiting classes, and is believed to be open to a fresh opportunity.

This past season's Rebels team finished 20-13. His first two squads fell in their NCAA tourney openers. …

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Spring football report: Spring game rosters set

After a brief round of free agency and ensuing NFL-style draft, the rosters for Saturday's annual USF spring game have been set.

The draft, overseen by coach/commissioner Willie Taggart, was privately held in a Bulls meeting room after last Saturday's scrimmage. The top five picks (in order): OG Thor Jozwiak, LT Darrell Williams, QB Mike White, RT Quinterrius Eatmon and OG Brynjar Gudmundsson.

Jozwiak and Eatmon will play for the White team. The four free-agent signees, courted by each team's coaching staffs (within NCAA rules) during spring drills are WR Andre Davis (White), DE/DT Elkino Watson (White), RB Michael Pierre and DE Demetrius Hill. 

Complete rosters can be found here. The game kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday at Corbett Stadium, home to USF's soccer teams. It will feature two regularly timed quarters in the first half and a running clock in the second.

WATCHING BYRD: Secondary coach Ron Cooper said Thursday S Jamie Byrd, a former Pasco High standout, has added physicality and maturity to a unit already brimming with rising sophomores who played extensively as rookies.

A 5-foot-11, 183-pound transfer from Iowa Western Community College, Byrd could log action at safety and nickel back for the Green team Saturday.

"He's tough, he'll tackle, he'll hit," Cooper said. "The secondary, if you can add somebody in it whom receivers or coordinators or quarterbacks fear a little bit to say, 'You know what, he'll hit us,' then it adds a little more to it."

GODWIN, SAFFOLD DOUBTFUL: FS Nate Godwin (sprained ankle) and S Torrel Saffold (knee cartilage) likely will miss Saturday's game though neither injury is believed to be serious.

The two were among four freshmen defensive backs thrust into extensive playing time last season due to performance and/or suspensions. Collectively, that foursome teamed for 14 starts and six of the Bulls' 11 interceptions.

"A lot of times as a coach you look at them and because they played last year, you think of them as being mature," Cooper said.

"But I've had to step back a little bit this spring to realize that hey, these guys still are just freshmen right now. And we're starting the teaching process over again because guys forget."

ODDS AND ENDS: In accordance with spring game tradition, the winning team earns a steak dinner -- CB Johnny Ward said it's steak -- that will be served by the losing team. ... A Bulls alumni flag football game, featuring former QBs Matt Grothe and B.J. Daniels on separate teams, will be staged during an extended halftime Saturday. Those rosters are here. ... Taggart told radio station WFHS 98.7-FM on Thursday that White is completing 70 percent of his passes against the defense in spring practice.

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Successors to Stan: Some possible targets for USF job

Now that USF has renewed its search for a men's basketball coach following revelations of resume falsifying by Manhattan's Steve Masiello, we've updated our list of potential candidates:

Bob Hoffman (Mercer coach)
Could this 56-year-old Oklahoma native be the latest coach to use an upset of a high-seeded heavyweight as a springboard to a higher-paying gig? Hoffman, whose 14th-seeded team shocked Duke in Friday's NCAA Tournament second round, told the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph he interviewed with USF on Monday.

Orlando Antigua (Kentucky assistant)
Quite possibly your front-runner now. We hear those involved in this search would be very pleased to wind up with Antigua, the behind-the-scenes catalyst of the Wildcats' astounding recent run of recruiting success. A Pitt and Harlem Globetrotters alumnus, Antigua was named by ESPN.com as the nation's top assistant under age 40 a couple of years back. Check out his Wikipedia page; his backstory's pretty astounding.

Shaka Smart (Virginia Commonwealth coach)
The home-run hire, but we're not sure if the Bulls will even take a swing at Smart. …

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Masiello deal off, USF coaching search continues

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello speaks during a news conference at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Orlando last week.

Associated Press

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello speaks during a news conference at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Orlando last week.

The search for a new USF men's basketball coach will continue indefinitely after negotiations with Manhattan coach Steve Masiello broke down late Tuesday night over false information in Masiello's resume.

The school confirmed Wednesday an agreement in principle had been reached before the discrepancy was discovered by the Texas-based firm being paid $60,000 by the school to lead the coaching search.

Jay Blanton, the University of Kentucky's executive director for public relations and marketing, told the Tampa Bay Times that Masiello never received his communications degree from UK as indicated on his official Manhattan bio and his old bio at Louisville.

Masiello was enrolled in the UK school of communications from 1996-2000, Blanton said.

"The agreement was pending a verification of credentials," the school announced in a four-sentence news release.

"Through the verification process it was determined the candidate's credentials could not be substantiated and therefore he did not meet the requirements for the position. The national search continues and USF looks forward to introducing a new coach at the appropriate time." …

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Donovan-Masiello: 2 Pitino pupils in a pod

As the rumblings evolved into reports about Steve Masiello replacing Stan Heath at USF, many immediately began drawing comparisons to another successful Rick Pitino protege who works two hours up the interstate.

Upon further delving, the similarities between Masiello and Florida coach Billy Donovan have leapfrogged striking and have landed smack on startling. Here are some of them (But bear in mind, Masiello hasn't officially been named Bulls coach yet):

* Both are New York natives

* Both played on a Rick Pitino team that reached a Final Four. Donovan was the spunky backcourt catalyst of Pitino's 1987 Providence team that reached the national semifinals, Masiello a walk-on guard for Pitino's '97 Kentucky team that fell to Arizona in the title game.

* Masiello was a ballboy for the Knicks. Donovan played part of a season for the Knicks.

* Donovan spent five seasons as a Pitino assistant at Kentucky, Masiello spent six seasons as a Pitino assistant at Louisville.

* If Masiello is hired by USF, he'll inherit a program two years removed from its greatest season ever -- just like Donovan. Donovan was hired in 1996, two years after the Gators reached their first Final Four. Masiello would come on board two years after the Bulls reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

* In their first head coaching jobs, both revived foundering programs. Donovan went 35-20 in two seasons at Marshall, which finished 9-18 the year before his arrival. Masiello inherited a Manhattan team that won six games in 2011, and led it to a 60-39 mark in three years.  

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Report: Steve Masiello expected to become next USF Bulls basketball coach

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, a 36-year-old Rick Pitino disciple who spent six years on Pitino's staff at Louisville, is expected to be named USF's ninth men's basketball coach later today.

A formal announcement is expected from USF at any time.

Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reported Tuesday morning that Masiello has accepted the school's offer to replace Stan Heath, fired March 14 after compiling a 97-130 mark in seven seasons. His deal reportedly is for five years at slightly more than $1 million annually.

Late Tuesday morning, Masiello already was following at least two current Bulls players -- guard Corey Allen Jr. and redshirt freshman Bo Zeigler -- on his Twitter account (He later unfollowed them). He emerged as the top candidate for the job last week.

"I'm gonna tell you this, it's a great hire by (new athletic director) Mark (Harlan)," said USF baseball coach Lelo Prado, whose tenure at Louisville (1996-2006), briefly overlapped with Masiello's (2005-11).

"I mean, everything I used to hear about this guy, he's gonna be a star, he's a go-getter. I think they hired a great guy. ... I think he'll go big-time into the community and I think it's a great hire." …

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Coaching search to cost USF minimum $60,000

TAMPA -- The same Texas-based search firm that placed new USF athletic director Mark Harlan with the Bulls is charging $60,000 to help the school find a new men's basketball coach.

The school provided the newest contract Monday upon a public-records request from the Tampa Bay Times. Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, a Rick Pitino protege who led the Jaspers to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, is believed to be USF's top target for the job.

Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv and NBA.com, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday night Masiello is expected to meet with USF officials this week. Former Bulls coach Seth Greenberg said via Twitter on Sunday he expects the school to hire Masiello.

The flat $60,000 fee being charged by Eastman & Beaudine, among the most prominent search firms in college athletics, doesn't include monthly expenses.

The firm charged USF $100,000 (not including expenses) for its eight-week search for a new AD that ended with the hiring of Harlan, a senior associate AD at UCLA. Harlan officially started at USF on Monday.

 

 

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Spring football report: Offensive reawakening

The momentum it built the first two weeks of spring drills appeared to dissipate during spring break. In the first three practices since returning from its layoff, the Bulls offense had regressed from sleek to circa 2013.

"I think personally what happened to us is, we got a little comfortable, we got complacent and we were too used to winning," QB Mike White said.

But on a bright, mildly breezy Saturday afternoon, White and Co. got out of their funk and got into the end zone. Often.

Playing before an audience of several dozen including former Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, the first team scored on its first three possessions against the starting defense in a mini-scrimmage at the Morsani Practice Complex.

During that stretch, White went 5-for-6 for 159 yards and a touchdown, while TB Michael Pierre ran six times for 30 yards and had a 79-yard TD catch before later exiting with a neck stinger.

"Our defense had come back after spring break and really put it to our offense...and today it was the total opposite," said Coach Willie Taggart, who appeared to alternate his first- and second-team units after each possession.

"It was good to see because we challenged our offense to see if we could respond and they did."

Among the highlights: WR Chris Dunkley's end-around for a 14-yard TD, and Pierre's dash across the field to the end zone after catching a short screen pass from White on third-and-25.

"Today I was disappointed," defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said.

"Not that it was a bad practice, but when you have 'em at third-and-(25)...and you give up a 70-yard screen, a 60-yard screen or whatever it was for a touchdown. ... Those are the things that bother me that we don't understand the game."

DEFENSE SHOWS 3-4: To maximize his depth in the back and compensate for inexperience up front, Bresnahan showed some 3-4 alignments during the scrimmage and indicated it could be used extensively in the fall.

"It's not 'Chuck Bresnahan is a 4-3 scheme,'" said the veteran coordinator, who primarily went with four down linemen last fall.

"I want to put our players in position to make plays, and so we don't have the big studs up front like we did last year...so we have to do some things to compensate for that

"And we've got some (3-4) principles in and we're going to use them to our advantage and let the athletes run around a little bit, because we are a little bit smaller but more athletic."  …

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Herget flirts with no-no in Bulls triumph

TAMPA -- The first American Athletic Conference game in USF history nearly became a bit more
historic Friday, courtesy of Bulls right-handed ace Jimmy Herget.

The lanky sophomore from Jefferson High took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and got just enough offensive help to lead USF (14-7, 1-0) to a 2-1 victory against Connecticut (10-9, 0-1) before a USF Baseball Stadium audience of 1,250.

Herget's no-hit bid was broken up when No. 9 hitter Aaron Hill led off the eighth with a sharp grounder in the hole between third and shortstop that deflected off shortstop Kyle Teaf's glove.

In 8 1/3 innings, Herget (3-3) allowed two hits and an unearned run, walking four and striking out four. Six hours before his start, he Tweeted: Have a good feeling that something special is going to happen tonight. I hope no one misses it

"I just came off a bad start against FIU and I told Coach (Lelo Prado) I felt I was going to come out here and start pitching angry," said Herget, who threw a career-high 125 pitches. "I just felt different."

Had Herget taken a no-hitter into the ninth, Prado said a reliever might have been summoned to finish it off, considering Herget's high pitch count.

"He was very disappointed the way he pitched his last outing and he's such a competitor," said Prado, who watched Herget surrender 12 hits in 6 1/3 innings in last week's 8-2 loss to FIU. "If every guy on our team had that kind of heart, you'd win a lot of ball games."

Sophomore Luke Maglich provided the game-winning RBI with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly to left that scored Kyle Teaf, who led off with a double. Teaf preserved the win with two defensive gems in the ninth including a diving snag of Bobby Melley's line drive in the hole.

UConn's unearned run occurred in the sixth when leadoff hitter Jack Sundberg walked, reached second on a sacrifice, took third on an errant Herget pickoff throw that rolled to center field, and scored on an infield grounder.

Jesuit alumnus Daniel Portales drove in the Bulls' first run with a two-out single to right in the first, scoring Maglich. Portales had two of USF's five hits.

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