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University Beat

Orlando to Tampa: Antigua Named USF Basketball Coach

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USF Athletics

Orlando Antigua has had two pretty eventful days.

The assistant coach for the University of Kentucky men's basketball team helped his squad make the Final Four on Sunday.

A day later, he was named head coach of the University of South Florida basketball team.

A formal press conference introducing Antigua is scheduled for Tuesday. No details about his contract have been announced, and it's believed Antigua will stay with Kentucky through next weekend's NCAA Championship in Texas.

The official announcement from USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan came in a press release sent out Monday afternoon.

“I said from the beginning of this search, we were looking for a great leader, a great communicator, a proven record of being able to recruit and develop players, and someone who will represent USF with exceptional energy and integrity,” Harlan said. “We have found all of that and more in Orlando Antigua. He has tremendous passion and a unique and exciting background that includes being a key participant in one of the most successful recent runs in the college game. His work as the head coach of the Dominican National Team is also extremely impressive. Orlando’s incredible personal story is a powerful testament to his drive and determination that will serve our program well.”

That "incredible personal story" Harlan is referring to includes Antigua coming to America from the Dominican Republic as a child, helping raise his two younger brothers, living in an abandoned convent in the Bronx after his family was evicted from their apartment while he was in high school, and being shot in the head when he was 15 years old.

Antigua graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and became the Harlem Globetrotters' first Latin player, taking the nickname "The Hurricane." After seven years with the Globetrotters, Antigua worked for Pitt's basketball team before joining coach John Calipari's staff, first at the University of Memphis and then Kentucky in 2009.

While working at UK, Antigua also became head coach for the Dominican Republic's national basketball team in 2011. He led them to the finals of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship before qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 35 years in 2012.

Antigua is regarded by many as one of college basketball's premier recruiters, having helped put together five straight number one ranked recruiting classes at Kentucky. This year's Final Four team, UK's third in the last four years, features five freshmen starters. They're only the second team to start five freshmen to reach the Final Four (University of Michigan, 1992).

Antigua will be the ninth head coach for the USF men's basketball team. Stan Heath was fired March 14th, just two days after the Bulls season ended with its ninth straight loss. Heath posted a 97-130 record in seven seasons at USF, including 12-20 this past season.

Heath led the Bulls to only two post-season tournaments, the NIT after the 2009-2010 and the NCAA in 2011-12. The latter team posted the program's first two NCAA tournament wins, but the Bulls only had 12 wins in each of the two seasons since then.

The search for Heath's replacement has been eventful to say the least.

First, Manhattan College head coach Steve Masiello had reached an agreement in principle early last week to take the job, but a search firm hired by USF found inaccuracies in his resume, leading to negotiations ending (Manhattan has since put Masiello on leave).

UNLV head coach Dave Rice was reportedly offered the job last Friday, but agreed to a contract extension at UNLV the next day.