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Former Pitt Player Orlando Antigua Duquesne Frontrunner?

I wanted to get to the Ron Everhart firing, but never got around to it. Without knowing the details of Duquesne's program, about the only thing I can say is that with limited knowledge, it looks like a questionable move. Everhart wasn't setting the world on fire, but he turned Duquesne from a joke of a program into a respectable one.

The Dukes won three games (that's not a typo) in the year before Everhart came and in his first season, got them to ten wins. That first year was a losing one for Everhart, but in the five since then, he's never been below .500. The Dukes had 19 wins in 2010-11 and 21 in 2008-09 when they went to the NIT. Again, not incredible stuff, but far beyond the previous era.

And almost as important, Everhart made the City Game fun again. Duquesne gave Pitt a couple of legitimate scares when they played and the feel of a rivalry was back. In the five previous years before Everhart arrived, Duquesne never got to within ten points of beating Pitt. The Panthers had some comfortable wins over Everhart teams, but in 2007, they came to within five of beating Pitt. They also took the Panthers to double overtime in 2009 (Side note: I ironically complained wildly about Ashton Gibbs' poor shooting way back then in the pre-SB Nation days of this blog - sound like 2011-12?).

Regardless of the situation, though, he's out. Because of that, former Pitt player Orlando Antigua appears to be not only a candidate, but a frontrunner for the job.

Antigua, in case you hadn't heard, is an assistant under John Calipari and the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats. As if his stock hadn't been high enough, that ring had to help at least a little. For the record, Cal thinks he's ready:

"Orlando is ready to be a head coach if that's what he chooses to be. The issue is, we've got a pretty good thing going here so now you have to be a little choosy on what you do.

Local director of the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Summer Pro-AM (aka the Greentree Summer League), John Giammarco, thinks Orlando will have first right of refusal:

"This is Orlando's job to say no to. That's what I'm hearing," Giammarco said. "Orlando's worked under some good coaches John Calipari, Jamie Dixon. He was pretty heavily involved in recruiting Davis.

Ray Mernagh at NBE mentions Antigua, but has at the very least some reservations:

Orlando Antigua is another name, currently an assistant at Kentucky. Was at Pitt for a few years before heading to Memphis to work for Cal and followed him to Kentucky. Antigua has resided in Rolls Royce land for quite a few years now. He’s known as a great recruiter, a label he didn’t have while at Pitt, but one he’s taken on under Calipari’s wing. The elephant in the room is can he coach? One would think he’s learned a ton at the knee of Calipari but he’d still be a first time head coach who’s never run his own program. The same can be said for Kenya Hunter, Brandin Knight, and Jeff Boals.

As of Tuesday, he hadn't yet been contacted (reportedly, anyway), but that's probably because Kentucky was still playing in the tournament.

The question for Antigua when it comes to leaving Kentucky will undoubtedly be (well, besides the money, anyway) if the Duquesne job is a good one. The school is making a commitment to the program, but things could be a bit rough initially. Several players, including star guard T.J. McConnell, won't be back. Next year has the look of a rebuilding year for sure. From there, much will depend on the players recruited, obviously. Antigua is said to have had a hand in bringing Player of the Year Anthony Davis to Kentucky according to that quote above from Giammarco, so he's got experience in chasing big-time talent.

Where do I come out on it? If Antigua is offered the job, he's got to give it serious consideration. As Mernagh points out, he's gaining the reputation of a recruiter. The Duquesne job, while a head coaching opportunity, isn't a slam dunk to me. If Antigua goes there and can't get the program any farther, he'll have to wait quite a bit for another good shot. The flip side is that he can stay at Kentucky, build his resume for another year or two, and maybe have a job at a major-conference job.

Not saying Antigua should definitely turn down the Dukes - only that there's plenty to think about.

After all, remember Barry Rohrssen?

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