Orlando Antigua is glad to be back home at Kentucky. (UK Athletics Photo)
Orlando Antigua had a simple explanation for what he told Ronald “Chin” Coleman about the Kentucky basketball program when both Illinois assistant coaches were considering a move to UK to be on John Calipari’s staff.
“What I told him is this is Camelot. This Camelot. It’s the winningest program in college history. Those things are easy to sell,” said Antigua Saturday.
Antigua was at Kentucky five years with Calipari when it was Camelot — one national title, one national runner-up, three Final Fours. Last year was not Camelot with a 9-16 record for Calipari.
Now Antigua and Coleman are both on the staff and already at work recruiting to rebuild the talent base at UK.
“Cal’s one of my mentors. A guy that throughout the years I’ve leaned on, not just for professional advice but personal advice. He’s someone I look up to. He’s a friend. He’s a mentor and he’s a Hall of Fame coach,” Antigua said.
“So, when you’re someone who’s like Chin who is still up and coming and he gets an opportunity to work with a Hall of Fame coach it’s very appealing, very attractive.”
Coleman said it was not a “package deal” that both would leave Illinois for Kentucky.
“I think that it just so happened that our profiles and what coach Cal wanted at the time just so happened to be on the same staff. I don’t think it was a packaged deal,” Coleman said. “I think that coach Antigua handled his situation and his decision that he made in his lane and I handled my situation and my decision in my own lane.
“We kind of run our own race in terms of making executive decisions, although it didn’t hurt the fact that he and I have an unbelievable chemistry. Our connection is unbelievable. We’re really, really tight and we’re like brothers. We’re able to work really well alongside one of another, and that just makes for a strong union.”
Coleman said it was Antigua who said yes to UK first — which is no surprise considering how beloved he still is in Kentucky.
“I was dealing with a different situation. I had a lot going on. I had a lot of opportunities and I think I made the best one of course,” Coleman said. “I chose to coach for Hall of Fame coach John Calipari and the opportunity to coach at Kentucky was just something that I couldn’t pass up.”
Antigua said while he was great friends with Coleman, they both did have to make their individual choices based on what was best for each one.
“My reasons for wanting to come back are way different than Chin’s reasons for wanting to join and be a part of this experience. We’ve shared some of my experiences. I’ve known Chin for 15, 16 years or so when he was on the circuit, when he was coaching, when he was up and coming. We spent a week together in Memphis. So, we’ve had a long-standing relationship,” Antigua said.
“To get the opportunity to work with him just increased that bond when we were at Illinois and going through some of the challenges that we did there and being able to help Coach (Brad) Underwood bring that program back to its heights was something that we cherished. We were able to build a bond through that. So, me sharing my experiences here, me sharing my experiences with working with Cal and him being made from the same kind of cloth, the way he works, his relationships, the way he builds relationships not just with staff but with the players and people, he’s an unbelievable people person that you all are going to be extremely excited to get to know.
“But it’s consistent. It’s consistent with the staff that Cal has had and now has with Bruiser (Flint) and Jai (Lucas), just with everyone. It’s really positive and great people to be a part of. I’m excited to be back home and I’m excited to be a part of that group.”