Following arguably the worst season in Kentucky basketball history – the Wildcats finished with fewer than ten wins for the first time since 1926-27 – John Calipari knew he needed to hit reset this offseason. After starting his time at Kentucky with three Final Fours in five years (2011, 2012, 2014) and one national title (2012), the UK head coach wanted the program to return to its winning ways as the gold standard of college basketball.
To do so, he brought back his most trusted confidant from UK’s absurd five-year run from 2009-2014: Orlando Antigua.
“I am really excited to have Orlando back,” Calipari said. “I think everyone knows what we were able to do with Orlando as a part of our staff going to the Sweet Sixteen in our final season at Memphis and making three Final Fours with a national title at Kentucky in his five seasons. But aside from our team success, he brings an uplifting spirit and a work ethic that helps create relationships that are so needed in college basketball within your own team and on the recruiting trail. All of that starts within our staff, and I am excited that he wanted to be back here with us to get our program back to where we know it needs to be.”
He also added Illinois assistant Ron ‘Chin’ Coleman, a coach Calipari says is “in the same mold” as Antigua, one with deep ties to grassroots basketball and thrives with player development.
“Ron ‘Chin’ Coleman is in the same mold as Orlando,” Calipari added. “You are talking about another upbeat, positive coach who is going to bring the spirit that has always been a part of our culture. He has earned his stripes through hard work and building relationships around the country. Chin is a grinder, someone who relishes that time in the gym with the kids to help add value to your current players, yet he never takes his eyes off the lifeline of our program, which is recruiting.
“I cannot wait to get both of these guys in the office and on the court with Jai (Lucas) and Bruiser (Flint) and get to work.”
Antigua returns to Lexington for his second stint with the Wildcats after seven seasons away, first as a head coach with South Florida and then as an assistant with Illinois. During his time on UK’s staff from 2009-14, Antigua was named the top assistant coach in the country under 40 by ESPN.com in 2012 and helped assemble five straight No. 1-ranked recruiting classes in Lexington.
“I want to thank Josh Whitman, Coach (Brad) Underwood and everyone at Illinois for an incredible four years in Champaign,” Antigua said. “We created some unforgettable memories and took the program to new heights that we can all be proud of. I will never forget my time at Illinois and I want to thank everyone who welcomed my family and I to a wonderful place. With that said, I am excited to be headed back to Lexington. This game has blessed me with so many amazing opportunities, but the chance to work at Kentucky again, a program where we built a lot of special memories, is one I am grateful for. Thank you to Mitch Barnhart and Coach Cal, one of my mentors, for the opportunity. I am looking forward to getting my feet on the ground in Lexington and getting this going again. As we have always done it, this will be about players first, and I can’t wait to work with our young men who represent the University of Kentucky.”
Coleman has 10 seasons of college coaching experience with time spent at Illinois, UIC, Bradley, Nebraska and Colorado State. He has been at Illinois since April 2017, where he has been instrumental in the development of the likes of 2021 National Player of the Year and projected first-round draft selection Ayo Dosunmu, along with recruiting four-star prospects Adam Miller and Tevian Jones to Champaign.
“We must accept the end of something in order to begin something new, special and different,” Coleman said.” To that end, I want to thank everyone at Illinois for the opportunity I was afforded the last four years. It was truly an honor, and I am proud of the success we achieved together. It takes courage to grow and become who you really are, and having the opportunity to coach at the University of Kentucky, work for John Calipari and be a member of Big Blue Nation is a dream come true. This is a different kind of place, one that coaches and players hope to one day be a part of. I am blessed to live that dream.”
Calipari said changes were coming, and he’s certainly made them.