Former Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua to return to Illinois

Nick Roushby:Nick Roush04/21/24


There’s just something about homecomings for Orlando Antigua. He made a homecoming to reunite with John Calipari at Kentucky. Now he’s returning to the school he last left, Illinois.

Illinois basketball announced Antigua is returning to Champaign to reunite with Brad Underwood. Antigua served on Underwood’s Illinois coaching staff from 2017-21. Antigua was actually the first hire Underwood made as the head coach of the Fighting Illini.

“We are beyond thrilled to welcome Orlando back to our program,” Underwood said. “The addition of him to our staff is the latest step in elevating Illinois Basketball as we continue to compete for championships. Orlando is held in the highest regard in our profession and someone I have tremendous trust in. Coaching, recruiting, player development, player relationships; he is the complete package. Orlando helped us win a lot of games and cut down nets the last time around, something he has done throughout his career. We aspire to do more of that together in Champaign in the years ahead.”

The BBN first learned Antigua was one of the best recruiters in the country when he served as Coach Cal’s righthand man from 2009-14. Desperately needing a shot in the arm after the 9-win Covid season, Calipari recruited Antigua from Illinois back to Lexington. In Orlando’s third season back on staff, the Cats had the best recruiting class in the country.

When John Calipari departed for Arkansas, he took almost everyone with him. Antigua and John Welch were the only two Kentucky assistants who did not make the move to Fayetteville. There was scuttlebutt around town that Antigua wanted to remain in Lexington on Mark Pope’s staff. It’s clear the new Kentucky head coach is ready to move in a new direction.

Although official news will not be announced until the work week begins, Mark Pope’s former righthand man at BYU, Cody Fueger, is expected to join him in Lexington. Jason Hart, the former G League Ignite coach, will be a full-time assistant, while former Georgia head coach Mark Fox will fill an off-the-court role.

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