Orlando Antigua coached under John Calipari at Memphis in 2008-09 and at Kentucky from 2009 to 2014. Now the head coach at South Florida, Antigua doesn’t think Calipari is leaving Kentucky anytime soon – and maybe not ever.
“I think he’s at his dream place,” Antigua said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “He’s always wanted to be at a place like Kentucky, and Kentucky is, in my opinion, as good – or even better – than a lot of those NBA jobs. So I doubt that he would want to do that.”
But if Calipari goes 40-0 and wins another national title, what else would there be for him to accomplish at the collegiate level? His first foray into the NBA didn’t work out, so wouldn’t he want the challenge of winning at the professional level?
Or is he just not wired that way?
“He’s an unbelievable competitor,” Antigua said. “He’s a guy that thinks outside the box, which is why when he started having these runs at Memphis of 27, 28 (wins) in a row starts thinking and putting out that he would love to coach a team that’s 40-0. And now to be at the point were he’s close to doing that, it’s incredible. But I don’t think that’s what fills his tank anymore. Maybe (it did) at a younger age. I think he really gets a lot of enjoyment (now with) how he’s able to affect these kids’ families, how he’s able to help them grow and reach their dreams, how he’s able to help his staff reach their dreams – and I’m one of those guys that was able to benefit from that. He’s at a point in his life where it’s not about the money. It’s not about ego and the accolades that come with that.”
In any event, Calipari’s Wildcats head to the Final Four this Saturday with an unblemished record, a 38-game winning streak and a chance to advance to the national title game for the third time in four years. Standing in their way is the same team that stood in their way last season – Wisconsin (35-3), a team that many feel has what it takes to legitimately challenge, if not defeat, the Wildcats.
Especially after Notre Dame came within a three-pointer of taking down Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
“What you saw was a Notre Dame team that tried to control the tempo and tried to control the game and did a great job offensively moving the ball (and) looking for penetrations,” Antigua said. “But on the other side of it, the matchup advantages that they had on the offensive side of the ball (were disadvantages on the defensive side). Kentucky was able to exploit (them). That’s why they were able to win. Those last three minutes, (Kentucky) decided to shut those guys down – and that’s what they did. They made it so difficult for Notre Dame to get baskets.
“Wisconsin is going to come in doing something similar,” Antigua continued. “They’re a great offensive efficiency team and they play really good defense, so it’s going to be an unbelievable matchup. And they got size. So I’m excited to see how the Cats respond to all the adversity.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Antigua does the same at South Florida. He inherited a team that went 12-20 last year and closed the season on a nine-game losing streak. This year, the Bulls went 9-23 and lost 22 of their final 26 games.
Antigua was asked for the one thing he learned from his time under Calipari.
“That you need really good players to win,” Antigua said, laughing. “Let me not state the obvious, but you need players. Your players got to know that you care about them – because you’re going to push them. (They have to know) that you’re there for them. (You have to establish) a relationship to the point where they grow and learn that you care about them and you get to a point where you actually love them and they become part of your family.”