CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois is reportedly losing an important member of Brad Underwood’s coaching staff.
Multiple reports have confirmed Orlando Antigua will be leaving his position as an assistant coach at Illinois in order to join John Calipari’s coaching staff at Kentucky for a second time in his career. WDRB-TV in Louisville sports reporter Rick Bozich reported this movement as a possibility on Monday and Stadium.com reporter Jeff Goodman confirmed the news Wednesday night.
At least one assistant coach position has opened up on Calipari’s staff has opened up after Wildcats assistant coach Tony Barbee has reportedly accepted the head coach position at Central Michigan.
Antigua served as an assistant for John Calipari for six seasons at both Memphis and Kentucky from 2008-14. He spent the 2008-09 season at Memphis before joining Calipari at Kentucky for five years from 2009-14. While serving on Calipari’s staff, Antigua was named the top assistant coach in the country under 40 by ESPN.com in 2012 and helped the Wildcats assemble five straight top-ranked recruiting classes. The Wildcats compiled a 152-37 record during his tenure, highlighted by three Final Four appearances and culminating in the 2012 NCAA Championship.
"Orlando has one of the top pedigrees in college basketball, from his days as a player and throughout his coaching career," Illini head coach Brad Underwood said in a statement on the day Antigua’s hiring was announced in April 2017. "He was an integral part of the success at Kentucky with Coach Calipari, recruiting and developing several outstanding players who went on to become high NBA draft picks. He works with our bigs here at Illinois and is doing an outstanding job in their development. Orlando is a wonderful person of high character and fits our Illini family perfectly."
Antigua has primarily worked with the frontcourt players and has mentored the on-court development of Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili during his time with the Illini program. Antigua’s lifelong ties to international amateur basketball, including served as head coach of the Dominican Republic men's national team from 2013-15, has helped the Illinois recruiting effort as he’s served as the primary recruiting coach for Cockburn, Andre Curbelo, Andres Feliz, 2021 signee Ramses “RJ” Melendez and 2022 commit Reggie Bass.
Antigua was not present Monday night during the 2021 Big Ten Tournament banner unveiling ceremony during halftime of the Illinois football spring game. When asked Monday if he intended on keeping his entire coaching staff intact, Underwood played down any rumors of his Illini staff having any transition.
“I look at every spring as an opportunity that if we do our job and we do it extremely well, that’s a reflection of our staff,” Underwood said Monday in a media Zoom conference. “(Illinois assistant coaches) should have opportunities to move their career along, No different than I did or anyone else in this profession. You very seldom skip a step in this profession. There’s steps to take and to kind of move along. Getting jobs is not easy. It’s really, really hard. But yet I’m also, as we continue to have success, you’ve always got to have a few things in mind in case you encounter those things. We’ll be no different at some point. But in the meantime, I’ve got the best staff in the country. I’m going to keep helping them grow and giving them added responsibilities. I think that’s what we should do as leaders. I’m blessed. These guys are incredible at what they do.”
Antigua, a native of the Dominican Republic but raised in The Bronx borough of New York City, became the first player of Latin American descent to play for the famed Harlem Globetrotters, touring the world for seven years until 2002. Antigua played his college basketball at Pittsburgh from 1991-95, serving as two-time team captain, after being named a McDonald’s All-America selection following his senior season at St. Raymond's High School in The Bronx.