TAMPA – The University of South Florida introduced Orlando Antigua, the University of Kentucky assistant who has helped the Wildcats to five consecutive No. 1-ranked recruiting classes, as its new men’s basketball coach today during a ceremony at the USF Sun Dome Arena Club.
Antigua, 40, immediately headed back to Lexington, Ky., and Wednesday he will accompany the Wildcats to the Final Four site in Arlington, Texas. When the UK run has ended – he hopes it will be Monday night, when the Wildcats could be cutting down the nets after a national championship – he will return to USF and begin his job.
Antigua received a five-year contract. His salary next season is $900,000 and it will escalate by $25,000 each year and there are series of incentive bonuses he could reach.
He has met with the USF players, but doesn’t know enough to form an opinion on the program’s personnel.
He has met with the holdover assistant coaches, who will have an opportunity for spots on his staff, but no decisions have been made there, either.
Antigua, a first-time head coach in college, said he was delighted with the opportunity.
“You have to win,’’ Antigua said. “Of course, you have to win. But we want to develop our guys on and off the court. We want to give them a fantastic college experience.
“I think this program is sleeping giant. The facilities are great. The city is great. A lot of pieces are in places. We just need to win. Coach Cal (Calipari) told me, ‘Go down there and surprise people. Go make history.’ ‘’
The Bulls were 12-20 last season, closing with a nine-game losing streak, and finishing 3-15 in the American Athletic Conference. Stan Heath, after his seventh season, was fired on March 14.
USF first-year athletic director Mark Harlan reached a contract agreement on March 24 with Manhattan College coach Steve Masiello, who signed a five-year deal. But a search firm employed by USF determined that Masiello had lied on his resume because he never received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky.
Masiello was rejected as a candidate and the search was re-opened. It eventually led to Antigua.
“I think I was my wife’s second choice, too,’’ Antigua said. “I’m OK with it. I’m grateful that faith led me to this place, where I’m sitting before you as the guy who has this job. Now I’m ready to go to work.’’