Orlando Antigua: Back and better than ever


Kentucky men’s basketball assistant coach Orlando Antigua addresses the media after the Father-Daughter Summer Basketball Camp on June 12, 2021 inside the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Ky. 

Barkley Truax

After a seven-year hiatus, Orlando Antigua is back in Lexington and coaching the Kentucky Wildcats.

“I’m really excited to be back,” Antigua said. “My wife and I and my daughter and son consider Lexington kind of like home.”

The last time Coach O was around this program, NBA star Julius Randle, James Young, the Harrison twins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson among several other all-time Calipari-era favorites rocked Kentucky blue. 

Antigua thinks that all the players on this year’s roster are special. “I’m just glad that I’m going to have a chance to have a front row seat to see who [this year’s fan favorites] are,” Antigua said.

That 2013-14 season was the last time Kentucky made their way through the March Madness bracket and into the championship game, where, as an eight-seed, they fell 60-54 to the nine-seeded Shabazz Napier and the UCONN Huskies. But what’s it going to take for the 2021-22 Kentucky team to make it that far?

“It’s going to take worrying about June 14th (Kentucky’s first official practice date),” he said. “It’s one day at a time, working, spending time with each other, growing, challenging each other and it takes a lot of hard work to get to March, but you can’t get to March before you get to August, September and October.” 

It’s only been five weeks since Antigua exchanged the Illinois orange for Kentucky blue, but there are key differences in his eyes through the program as a whole from the time he left until now. Most notably, the coaching staff.

“Getting a chance to come back and work with [Calipari], Bruiser [Flint] and Chris [Woolard] … with the addition of Chin [Coleman] and Jai [Lucas] … I’m really excited about teaming up with them and making some memories here,” he said.

In his time away, Antigua spent 2014-17 as the head coach of South Florida as well as coaching his home country, the Dominican Republic from 2013-15. The former Globetrotter was hired in 2017 by Brad Underwood as an assistant at Illinois where he helped lead the Fighting Illini to a 24-7 record and a Big Ten Championship last season. 

Speaking of Illinois, Coach O hasn’t come alone this time. Ron ‘Chin’ Coleman signed to coach under John Calipari’s umbrella this upcoming season as well.

“[Coleman] is real happy to be here,” Antigua said. “Learning and seeing all the things I told him about; how fanatical our fans are, how educated they are, how passionate they are about the program and the school so he’s been pumped up about that.”

While Antigua’s second tenure with the program hasn’t been long as of now, he’s looking to get the most out of his time with the program when it comes to winning and developing young pro talent. 

With the summer basketball camp season winding down, it’s time to get serious and plan for the huge Champions Classic matchup with Duke in Madison Square Garden to begin the season as the ‘Cal revenge tour’ clashes with the ‘Coach K farewell tour’.