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Former Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua returns to Illinois

Jack Weaver
Kentucky Wildcats associate coach Orlando Antigua yells from the bench during the No. 16 Kentucky vs. Yale mens basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 69-59. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Former Kentucky men’s basketball assistant coach Orlando Antigua rejoined the coaching staff at Illinois after the departure of John Calipari in the offseason.

Antigua joined Kentucky for the second time in 2021 as part of Calipari’s staff before “Cal” left for Arkansas shortly after the Cats were upset by Oakland in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky Wildcats associate coach Orlando Antigua talks to a referee during the No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Providence mens basketball game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 17, 2023, at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Kentucky won 61-53. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

While other assistants like Bruiser Flint and Chin Coleman seemed to follow Calipari to Arkansas — while John Welch left for Fresno State — reports initially began surfacing that Antigua had interest in returning to Kentucky as part of Mark Pope’s coaching staff.

Regardless, Antigua made his return to Champaign, Illinois, where he had previously served as an assistant coach from 2017 until he returned to Kentucky.

Antigua, born in the Dominican Republic, had a playing career in his home country before coming to the United States to play college basketball at Pittsburgh, a former coaching stop of Calipari.

He was also part of the Harlem Globetrotters for a few years before his playing career ended in 2000.

Antigua began coaching in 2002 at Mount Lebanon High School before he was given an opportunity at the collegiate level at Pittsburgh, his alma mater, in 2006.

He then joined forces with Calipari in Memphis in 2008 and followed the head coach to Kentucky in 2009.

Before his first stint at Kentucky ended Antigua was also given the opportunity to lead the Dominican Republic basketball team.

During his stint with the Dominican Republic team, Antigua departed Lexington and Calipari to become the head coach of the South Florida (USF) Bulls.

Kentucky Wildcats associate coach Orlando Antigua attempts to pull head coach John Calipari back towards the bench during the Kentucky vs. No. 5 Tennessee mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 63-56. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

His tenure with his home country ended in 2015 and, two years later, he was also let go from USF with a 23-55 head coaching record.

Back on the open market, Antigua was hired to Brad Underwood’s staff at Illinois, where he remained until 2021 when he rejoined Kentucky alongside Colman, who was also at Illinois.

He will be returning to Underwood in Illinois to continue his head coaching career, with the Fighting Illini earning a No. 3 seed before going down to the eventual National Champion UConn in the Elite Eight.

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Cole Parke, Sports Editor

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