Third time’s the charm


It’s finally over. 

The storm that was the USF men’s basketball coaching search – – the storm which included a deal with Manhattan coach Steve Masiello falling through upon discovering his lack of a college degree and UNLV coach Dave Rice toying with the idea of the USF job  – ended Monday, when Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua was named coach.

At 2:24 p.m.  on Monday afternoon, to be exact,  Antigua was named USF’s new coach via an official statement sent out from Athletics. The contract is reported to be for five years and worth nearly $6 million. 

Antigua comes from a Wildcats team where he coached alongside John Calipari for five seasons, six if their one season coaching together at Memphis is counted. USF’s first almost-hire Masiello was an assistant to Pitino at Louisville not too long ago.

And like Pitino did for Masiello, Calipari had nothing but good things to say about Antigua’s move to Tampa in a statement released by USF.

“When this is done right, everyone involved should benefit from the success of the program,” Calipari said. “This includes the university as a whole, the athletic department, administrators, staff and especially assistant coaches. They and their families deal with the brunt of the work. With that being said, I am so excited that Orlando has been hired by the University of South Florida.”

Kentucky tips off with Wisconsin this weekend in the Final Four after beating Louisville two rounds earlier in the Sweet 16, and Antigua will stay with the Wildcats throughout the tournament before beginning his first full-time head-coaching job when he starts at USF.

But the peak of Antigua’s story isn’t in Kentucky, even with three Final Fours, four Elite Eights and a National Championship. 

It started when Antigua, his two younger brothers and his mother, Damaris, moved from the Dominican Republic to the states for opportunity. 

Opportunity didn’t show itself immediately.

His mother worked most of the day, leaving Orlando as man of the house – or rather their small apartment in the Bronx which soon became a small convent across the street from his high school, St. Raymonds.

His mother was evicted from their apartment. 

Antigua’s high school basketball coach found a small condo for the family with running water. 

It’s what happened in between those events when Orlando realized he needed to find his purpose – his opportunity. 

On a Halloween night in the Bronx, Antigua and a friend were walking the streets when they stumbled upon two men arguing outside of an electronics store. A crowd gathered.

Antigua, then 6-foot-5, wanted to get a better look so he propped his foot on the bumper of a car. An egg was hurled at the men. One turned to see Antigua standing among the crowd. 

The man pulled out .22 caliber pistol and shot Antigua. The bullet went just left of his left eye and he was rushed to the hospital. He was back to playing basketball two weeks later.

The bullet traveled inside his head for six years, making its way to his ear canal before he had it removed in the summer before his senior season at Pittsburgh in 1994, when he became the first in his family to earn a college scholarship and degree.

While his off-court resume would certainly stand out, his on-court resume was about to get interesting. 

Antigua was nicknamed “Hurricane” when he joined the Harlem Globetrotters as their first Hispanic member after receiving offers to attend NBA camps. 

After seven years with the historic team, traveling across the world, he landed a small coaching job at Mt. Lebanon High School before serving under Jamie Dixon at his Alma Mater in Pittsburgh where he was once named to the Big East All-Rookie Team.

That’s when more opportunity arrived his feet. In 2008, Antigua was hired as Calipari’s assistant in Memphis, later following him to Kentucky and in his footsteps as the coach of the Dominican Republic National team.

After reaching the postseason every year and compiling a 151-36 record in Kentucky, bringing in five-straight No. 1 recruiting classes, Calipari has seen what Antigua can do both as a coach and nationally recognized recruiter, sending players such as Anthony Davis, John Wall and Demarcus Cousins to the NBA. 

“Based on what he’s done with the Dominican Republic National Team as their head coach and his work with our family over the last five years at Kentucky and one season at Memphis, I have the utmost confidence in him to lead this program to new heights,” Calipari said. “My guess is they will do things that have never been done before at South Florida. We’re all going to miss him and his family after we finish this run.”

From the man of the house in the Bronx to the second man to Calipari, Antigua now takes on the role of the man for USF men’s basketball. 

Antigua will be welcomed to USF today at 3 p.m. in the Arena Club of the Sun Dome.