There is finally some movement in the quest to bring Orlando Antigua back to Lexington.
Derek Piper of Illini Inquirer is reporting that Antigua has informed the Illinois coaching staff that he’s leaving to return to Kentucky. The news is quickly making the rounds on Twitter:
My best source says O.A. is O.U.T.
— Illini Report (@IlliniReport) April 29, 2021
Best of luck to Orlando Antigua at the University of Kentucky. The Illini Nation will be disappointed but they also have to respect everything you did while in Champaign. You helped Illinois to a #1 seed and left the program in a better spot. Kentucky got a great one.
— Jason Thompson (@jthompson247) April 29, 2021
If these reports are true, Antigua will return to the Kentucky Basketball program after seven years away. He was part of John Calipari’s first staff in Lexington in 2009 and stayed with the program until 2014. During that time, he 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. UK compiled a 152-37 overall record during his tenure, highlighted by three Final Four appearances and the program’s eighth national title in 2012.
Antigua spent the last four years on Brad Underwood’s staff, helping lead Illinois to a 45-17 record over the past two seasons after a 26-39 start from 2017-19. The Fighting Illini had their best season in 16 years in 2020-21, finishing with a final record of 24-7, a Big Ten Tournament Championship, and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to joining Underwood at Illinois, Antigua was the head coach at South Florida for two and a half seasons from 2014-17 before he was dismissed on January 3, 2017. He also coached the Dominican Republic men’s national team from 2013-15, where he helped lead the country to its first FIBA World Cup bracket appearance in history.
Earlier this week, the news that Tony Barbee was taking the head coaching job at Central Michigan and Joel Justus an assistant coaching job at Arizona State became official, clearing the road for Antigua, and, potentially, Coleman. The job postings went up on UK’s website on Monday, so it may still be a few days before anything is official.