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."
A native of the Dominican Republic and former rangy sharpshooter at Pitt, Antigua was believed to be a favorite of the Texas-based private search firm hired by USF.
He has spent the past five seasons on John Calipari's staff at UK following a year with Calipari at Memphis. Last summer, he was promoted to head coach of the Dominican Republic national team.
“I have been preparing for the challenge of leading a program my entire life and I have a deep belief and passion that USF basketball can thrive and is ideally positioned in a community as rich and diverse as the Tampa Bay area," Antigua said in the news release.
"I look forward to renewing my strong connections in the state of Florida and can’t wait to begin working towards our future success.”
A bilingual married father of two, Antigua became the first Latin-American to play for the Harlem Globetrotters -- who nicknamed him "Hurricane" -- when he joined the iconic team after college.
That's hardly the most unique part of his backstory. The oldest of three brothers reared in the Bronx, Antigua has been credited with helping keep his family intact during a stretch of homelessness.
On Halloween 1988, he was shot in the head near his left eye, but was playing basketball two weeks later and played three seasons at Pitt with the slug in his head. In 1994, he was named the United States Basketball Writers Association's Most Courageous Athlete. He eventually earned a bachelor's degree in social sciences from Pitt.
As a coach, he spent five years at his alma mater before joining Calipari at Memphis in 2008. While at UK, he has helped Calipari land five consecutive signing classes ranked No. 1 by at least one major scouting service or news organization.
The current 'Cats team is the first to reach the Final Four with an all-freshman starting lineup since Michigan's Fab Five of 1992.
His arrival caps a bizarre -- and occasionally botched -- search for Heath's replacement. USF confirmed it reached an agreement in principle with Manhattan's Steve Masiello early last week, but broke things off when the search firm discovered inaccuracies on Masiello's resume.
On Friday, UNLV coach Dave Rice reportedly was offered the job after meeting in Tampa with Harlan, but reached an agreement on a contract extension with UNLV the following day.