Published in The Crow’s Nest February 2015
The USF men’s basketball program is heading in the right direction, or at least Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown thinks so.
Brown is the only coach in basketball history to win a championship in the NCAA (University of Kansas, 1988) and in the NBA (Detroit Pistons, 2004).
Following Southern Methodist University’s 63-52 victory over the Bulls on Jan. 28, Brown had some words of encouragement for his opponents, who are on a seven-game losing streak.
“One, I know how good this program is going to be,” Brown said. “And nothing against the coaching staff before, I have a lot of respect for those guys, but you know, Orlando (Antigua) is good people. He deserves this opportunity. This, to me, is a sleeping giant.”
“The giant,” however, has been asleep since the 2011-2012 season. That year, the Bulls went 22-14 and qualified for the NCAA tournament as the No. 12 seed. It was their last winning season to date.
“There’s ample material here,” Brown said. “I think they can recruit on a national level because Orlando’s done that before and he’ll have a lot of people that will help him.”
Antigua was an assistant head coach at the University of Kentucky before accepting the head coaching position with the Bulls. He studied under John Calipari at UK for six years, where the Wildcats had the No. 1 recruiting class four times and the No. 2 class two times, reaching the championship game twice.
“I think he’ll get it done,” Brown said. “I really do.”
Antigua is in the first year of his five-year contract with the Bulls. Adding nine new players to the roster, the program is building from the ground up.
“I appreciate Coach saying that,” Antigua said. “He’s obviously someone I look up to. He’s a Hall of Fame coach, he’s won at everywhere. Just to have an opportunity for our team to compete against his in a great conference is something that is exciting.”
The legendary coach went on explaining how the Bulls’ entire coaching staff is admirable, not just the head coach.
Joining Antigua from UK was former NBA player Rod Strickland, who had an administrative role on Calipari’s staff.
“Rod’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around,” Brown said. “Kids kind of gravitate toward Rod. I just hope he does well because he’s paid his dues.”
Brown went on to explain how coaches, such as Antigua, can have the chips stacked against them the way recruiting is set up — the rich get richer — compared to the way the NBA is set up, where the worst teams can grab the top players.
To see how this sleeping giants turns out is yet to be seen. With just nine games left on the schedule, the Bulls are 7-15 overall, 1-8 in conference play.
(Photo Courtesy of SMU Athletics)