Orlando Antigua named Associate Head Coach at Illinois

Orlando Antigua is returning to Fighting Illini Basketball. A 21-year veteran of the coaching profession – widely regarded as the nation’s preeminent recruiter and one of the top frontcourt player development mentors in the country – Antigua is reuniting with head coach Brad Underwood and the Illinois program as Associate Head Coach, pending approval by the UI Board of Trustees at an upcoming meeting.

“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.”

Antigua will begin his second stint at Illinois following three successful seasons at Kentucky, which marked his second stop in Lexington. Kentucky compiled a 71-30 record from 2021-24, recording at least 22 wins in each of the three years and making three NCAA Tournament appearances.

Antigua managed the development of Oscar Tshiebwe, the unanimous National Player of the Year in 2022. Tshiebwe led the NCAA in rebounding and became the first Div. I player to average at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in 42 years. Antigua also helped the Wildcats land three-straight top-5 recruiting classes, including the No. 1 class in the country in 2023.

Prior to Antigua’s second run in Lexington, he spent four years at Illinois from 2017-21. Antigua was Underwood’s first hire in Champaign during the spring of 2017, and he played an instrumental role in the turnaround of Illinois Basketball into a national contender.

Antigua’s final two seasons in Champaign rank among the best in school history. Illinois won 21 games during the regular season, went 13-7 in the Big Ten, and finished ranked No. 21 in the AP poll in a 2020 season that had no postseason due to COVID-19. The Illini then went 24-7 in 2021, including a 16-4 mark in conference play to set the school record for most wins in Big Ten play. Illinois went on to the win the Big Ten Tournament and earned an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed. The 2021 Illini set a school mark by defeating six top-10 teams and ended the year at No. 2 in the final AP poll and No. 4 in kenpom, the second-highest rating in program history.

Antigua helped the Illini land several top-100 recruits and highly ranked recruiting classes and directed the development of three frontcourt players who earned All-Big Ten honors, including one who shined on the national stage.

Kofi Cockburn dominated in the post as a sophomore during the 2021 season, earning NCAA Consensus Second-Team All-America accolades and First-Team All-Big Ten. Cockburn was the only player in the country to average 15+ points and 9+ rebounds while shooting at least 60% from the field. He led the nation with 78 dunks, was third nationally with 16 double-doubles, and ranked fourth in the NCAA in field goal percentage (.654).

The 2020 season saw Cockburn emerge as the Big Ten’s top newcomer. He earned seven league freshman of the week accolades en route to being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Cockburn shattered the Illini freshman double-doubles record with 12 while averaging 13.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on the season. 

In 2019, Giorgi Bezhanishvili arrived as an under-the-radar recruit but went on to start every game in the post, leading the team in rebounding and ranking among NCAA leaders in field goal percentage while breaking the Illini school single-game scoring record by a freshman (35 points). 

In 2018, Leron Black earned honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades after leading Illinois in both scoring and rebounding. 

Antigua arrived at Illinois following two and a half seasons as head coach at South Florida. He also served as head coach of the Dominican Republic men’s national team from 2013-15. During that stint in 2014, the Dominican Republic advanced to the bracket round of the FIBA World Cup for the first time in the country’s history.

Antigua earned the head position at South Florida after serving as an assistant for John Calipari for six seasons. He spent the 2008-09 season at Memphis before joining Calipari at Kentucky for five years from 2009-14. Named the top assistant coach in the country under 40 by ESPN.com in 2012, Antigua helped assemble five straight No. 1-ranked recruiting classes during his time at UK. The Wildcats compiled a 152-37 record during his tenure, highlighted by three Final Four appearances and culminating in the 2012 NCAA Championship.

Prior to joining Calipari at Memphis, Antigua spent five seasons at his alma mater, Pittsburgh. He was part of then-head coach Jamie Dixon’s staff, three as director of basketball operations (2003-06) and two as assistant coach (2006-08) while Pitt compiled a 132-40 record.

Antigua played at Pittsburgh from 1991-95, serving as two-time team captain. He won the USBWA’s Most Courageous Athlete in 1994, an honor that is presented annually to a player who displays courage on and off the court.

After graduating from Pittsburgh in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in social science, Antigua became the first player of Latin American descent to play for the famed Harlem Globetrotters, touring the world for seven years until 2002. The Globetrotters at that time were owned by Illinois alumnus and 2017 Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Mannie Jackson.

Born in the Dominican Republic but raised in The Bronx borough of New York City, Antigua attended St. Raymond’s High School. As a senior, he earned McDonald’s All-America and Parade magazine All-America second-team honors and was also named All-New York City.

Fluent in Spanish, Antigua and his wife, Dana, have a daughter, Olivia, and a son, Orlando Anthony.


Tagged with: