Kentucky basketball makes big moves with addition of Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman

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Major changes are coming to the Kentucky basketball program.

Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman were announced Thursday as the newest members of John Calipari’s coaching staff at UK, bringing confirmation to a move that has been expected for weeks.

Antigua and Coleman spent the past four seasons as assistant coaches at Illinois, playing a key role in that program’s resurgence as a national contender. The Illini earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this past season and Antigua and Coleman have both helped oversee some major recruiting victories at Illinois in recent years.

“Orlando and Chin are proven recruiters. That’s their bread and butter,” 247Sports analyst Travis Branham told the Herald-Leader. “They proved it at Illinois, and I think they’re going to continue trying to make that their big strength and continue to bring in more players to Kentucky’s program. Obviously, Orlando and Cal go way back. There’s that comfortability with each other. Those two guys have a big reputation out on the recruiting trail.

“They’ll provide a good recruiting presence, and we’ll see what happens from there.”

Of course, UK fans already know Antigua from his days as an assistant coach with the Wildcats. He spent one season under Calipari at Memphis before following him to Lexington in 2009. Antigua stayed on Calipari’s coaching staff for five seasons at Kentucky, helping the Cats advance to three Final Fours in that time, including a national championship victory in 2012.

Kentucky announced Thursday that Antigua would have the title of associate coach.

“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.”

Antigua, 48, also gained the reputation as one of the nation’s top recruiters, and UK landed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class in every one of Antigua’s cycles with the program. He also helped put together the 2014 class — and was a key recruiter for Karl-Anthony Towns — that aided the 2014-15 team to a 38-1 record and the program’s most recent Final Four appearance.

By the time that team began its season, Antigua had left UK for the head coaching job at South Florida. He had a 23-55 record in two and a half years leading that program and was dismissed by USF midway through the 2016-17 season. His brother, Oliver Antigua, resigned as an assistant coach at South Florida before that season began due to NCAA violations.

An NCAA report determined that Oliver Antigua provided recruits with impermissible benefits without the knowledge of Orlando Antigua, who was hired by Illinois in 2017.

Calipari’s first staff at Kentucky consisted of Antigua, John Robic — who is still with the program as special assistant to the head coach — and Rod Strickland, who now helps oversee the G League’s professional development program, which has become a recruiting rival of sorts for the Wildcats over the past couple of years.

Back at Kentucky for his second stint, Antigua will undoubtedly be looked upon to replicate the recruiting success he had in the first few years of the Calipari era as the program looks to move beyond a 9-16 season amid a college basketball landscape that has changed dramatically since Calipari and Antigua arrived in Lexington more than 12 years ago.

Chin Coleman to UK

Coleman has also spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach at Illinois, and the Chicago native is well-regarded in recruiting circles. Before beginning his career as a college assistant in 2011, he was a high school and AAU coach in Chicago and still has extensive ties to the city, which has also been the hometown of several Kentucky players during Calipari’s tenure, including Anthony Davis and Tyler Ulis.

A former college point guard and 1997 graduate of Lamar University, Coleman was the head coach of Mac Irvin Fire — one of the top Nike-affiliated programs in the country — from 2005 to 2011.

At Illinois, he helped recruit and develop Ayo Dosunmu, who blossomed into one of the nation’s top point guards and was named a consensus First Team All-American this season. Dosunmu, also a Chicago native, was the No. 32 recruit in the 2018 class and is projected to be a first-round NBA Draft pick this year after playing the past three seasons at Illinois.

“Ron ‘Chin’ Coleman is in the same mold as Orlando,” Calipari said. “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.”

Coleman was also Illinois’ lead recruiter on five-star point guard TyTy Washington, who committed to Creighton last year but has since reopened his recruitment and lists Kentucky as one of his final six schools. Washington will announce his college decision May 15, and UK is viewed as one of the favorites in his recruitment.

Antigua returns — and Coleman arrives — as part of a major shakeup to Calipari’s coaching staff.

Two former UK assistant coaches — Tony Barbee and Joel Justus — have left the program this spring. Barbee was introduced as the new head coach at Central Michigan last month, and Justus has taken the top assistant coach position at Arizona State.

Antigua and Coleman join a UK staff that already includes Bruiser Flint and Jai Lucas as assistant coaches with Robic as a special assistant. Flint, a longtime college head coach, will move into the non-recruiting role Barbee previously occupied on Calipari’s coaching staff, while Lucas — viewed nationally as one of the nation’s most promising young assistants — will continue to help lead the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.

“I cannot wait to get both of these guys in the office and on the court with Jai and Bruiser and get to work,” Calipari said.

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