What Kentucky basketball fans should know about assistants Orlando Antigua, Chin Coleman

Jon Hale
Louisville Courier Journal

LEXINGTON — John Calipari's Kentucky basketball staff makeover is complete.

The Hall of Fame coach has hired former Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua and his Illinois colleague Ron "Chin" Coleman to replace Tony Barbee and Joel Justus on his staff. 

“I am really excited to have Orlando back,” UK coach John Calipari said in a news release. “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.”

“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.

"I cannot wait to get both of these guys in the office and on the court with Jai (Lucas) and Bruiser (Flint) and get to work."

Antigua and Coleman will fill two of the three on-court assistant positions with Lucas. Flint will move from an on-court position to "associate to the head coach," the support staff spot vacated by Tony Barbee. Antigua's title will be "associate coach."

What to know about Orlando Antigua

Orlando Antigua, head coach of the Dominican Republic national team and former Kentucky assistant, looks up at the scoreboard during the teams' exhibition game in Nassau, Bahamas. August 15, 2014.

Antigua worked on Calipari's Kentucky staff from 2009 to 2014, serving as the Wildcats' lead recruiter in a historic run that included the 2012 national championship and three Final Four appearances. During that period, Kentucky signed the consensus No. 1-ranked recruiting class every year from 2009 to 2013.

Antigua left Kentucky in 2014 when he was hired as head coach at South Florida but was instrumental in assembling the 2014-15 Kentucky roster that won its first 38 games before a Final Four loss to Wisconsin. He was 23-55 as a head coach before being fired 13 games into the 2016-17 season.

“I want to thank Josh Whitman, Coach (Brad) Underwood and everyone at Illinois for an incredible four years in Champaign,” Antigua said in the release. “We created some unforgettable memories and took the program to new heights that we can all be proud of. I will never forget my time at Illinois and I want to thank everyone who welcomed my family and I to a wonderful place. With that said, I am excited to be headed back to Lexington. This game has blessed me with so many amazing opportunities, but the chance to work at Kentucky again, a program where we built a lot of special memories, is one I am grateful for. Thank you to Mitch Barnhart and Coach Cal, one of my mentors, for the opportunity. I am looking forward to getting my feet on the ground in Lexington and getting this going again. As we have always done it, this will be about players first, and I can’t wait to work with our young men who represent the University of Kentucky.”  

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An NCAA investigation revealed Antigua's brother, Oliver Antigua, "knowingly provided recruits with impermissible housing and other benefits" while an assistant coach on Orlando's South Florida staff but determined the violations occurred "without the consent or knowledge" of Orlando, according to The Chicago Tribune.

At Illinois, Antigua helped assemble the roster that entered the 2021 NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed and included first-team All-American Ayo Dosunmu and second-team All-American Kofi Cockburn.

What to know about Chin Coleman

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood, left, and assistant coach Ron Coleman react on the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Coleman comes to Kentucky after four seasons at Illinois. He brings deep ties to the city of Chicago and the AAU world.

Prior to his stint at Illinois, Coleman made coaching stops at Illinois-Chicago, Bradley, Nebraska and Colorado State. From 2005 to 2011, the Chicago native was coach for the Mac Irvin Fire, one of the traditional powers in Nike's EYBL league. 

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Coleman worked closely with the Illinois guards and was credited as being key in the development of Dosunmu, a projected NBA draft first-round pick later this summer.

“We must accept the end of something in order to begin something new, special and different,” Coleman said in the release.” To that end, I want to thank everyone at Illinois for the opportunity I was afforded the last four years. It was truly an honor, and I am proud of the success we achieved together. It takes courage to grow and become who you really are, and having the opportunity to coach at the University of Kentucky, work for John Calipari and be a member of Big Blue Nation is a dream come true. This is a different kind of place, one that coaches and players hope to one day be a part of. I am blessed to live that dream.”

The two openings on Kentucky's staff were created with assistant Joel Justus left for a job on Bobby Hurley's Arizona State staff and Barbee was hired as Central Michigan's new head coach.

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ