18 days after firing Stan Heath, the University of South Florida introduced Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua as its ninth head coach in school history. A huge group that included media, administrators, cheerleaders, players, boosters and fans assembled at the Arena Club inside the Sun Dome to welcome the man that’s been commissioned to breathe new life into a program that’s had its share of struggles.
Antigua is a dominating presence at 6’-7” yet wears his heart on his sleeve. At his introductory news conference he thanked anyone and everyone that helped him land his first Division One head coaching job – and often had to pause to contain his emotions. When he mentioned his wife and two children, he simply saluted his son Orlando, a U.S. Marine. That’s all he could do because the lump in his throat was too big.
He strikes you as a man that hasn’t been given a lot in life (his family was homeless at one point as a kid). He’s had to earn everything he has. And knows how quickly it can all be taken away (like the drive-by shooting in 1988 that lodged a bullet in his head).
He’s been around winning coaches and winning programs. And he intends to use all that tutoring to turn USF into a winner. Will it be easy? No way. Can it be done? Absolutely.
Antigua’s boss, Kentucky head coach John Calipari, called the USF job, “a sleeping giant.” It certainly has the potential to be an NCAA Tournament regular – amazing facilities, a roster that’s stocked full of young talent and a conference that’s ripe for a takeover.
Even though he wasn’t USF’s first choice, he was the right choice. While Manhattan’s Steve Masiello was caught in a lie and UNLV’s Dave Rice simply used the Bulls offer as leverage to get a new contract in Sin City … Antigua truly wanted the job.
Orlando Antigua is young, energetic, a dynamic recruiter, a winner and best of all a realist. He knows it will take a lot of hard work to make USF a force in college basketball. And he reminded everyone at the Dome that he’s not afraid of hard work.
He said, “Enthusiasm can’t be taught but it can be caught.” Well, this is a fan base starving for enthusiasm and maybe the new guy will provide it.