Kentucky assistant Antigua not letting new job distract from Final Four

jtipton@herald-leader.comApril 3, 2014 

Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua talks to media at the Final Four about becoming head coach at South Florida.

KENTUCKY.COM

Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, who earlier in the week was named head coach at South Florida, said Thursday he will not be juggling two jobs at the Final Four.

"You try to take one thing at a time, right now," he said in speaking to reporters outside UK's locker room in AT&T Stadium.

Not that Antigua has avoided paying some attention to his South Florida team. "I try to text message with the kids back at South Florida," he said with a smile. "Make sure they're watching, and taking care of academics."

Antigua cited several factors in his decision to pursue the South Florida job. The enthusiasm of the athletic director, the support of the school's administration, facilities, selling Tampa and using what UK Coach John Calipari termed the "Latin flavor" to recruit south Florida, the Caribbean islands and South America.

Although Calipari suggested the American Athletic Conference affiliation gave South Florida a chance to compete, Antigua noted that the league might not be the old Big East, but it's no pushover.

"I don't know if you noticed there's a team in here that plays in the conference," he said in reference to Connecticut. "It's a great conference."

Antigua noted the support and teasing he received from UK players.

"When I got back from the press conference, they all started bustin' my chops," he said with a grin. "But it's great. Great group of kids. I'm really happy for the experience I got to have being at Kentucky with the staff."

When asked how Calipari had influenced him, Antigua said, "He taught me how to adjust to the personnel you have. How to keep challenging the kids. How to keep raising the bar. ...

"I'm sure when I get in the trenches, there will be more of that stuff that surfaces."

Antigua declined to say if Willie Cauley-Stein would play for Kentucky in the Final Four. Cauley-Stein was not using crutches as he emerged from the UK locker room wearing practice gear. But Cauley-Stein moved so slowly, it seemed unlikely he would play.

"That's a question that I will defer to Coach Cal," Antigua said.

Reminded that he was a head coach in his own right, thus free to speak with authority, Antigua said, "Not yet. Not in this setting."

Antigua noted the pain Calipari has experienced in a hip, which will require surgery after the Final Four. "Part of getting older," he said of Calipari, who is 55.

Antigua did not dismiss the possibility of hiring someone from UK for his South Florida staff. "Maybe, maybe," he said. "Just haven't dove into all the particulars."

A home-and-home series with Kentucky might also fall into the "maybe" category.

"I hope so," Antigua said. "I hope to eventually work something out."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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