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HOT TAKE TUESDAY: Give Orlando Antigua As Long As He Needs To Fix USF Basketball

When is it time to put Coach O on the hot seat? How about never?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Opinions: we have them! However, some USF opinions are more controversial than others. For those, we are starting HOT TAKE TUESDAY at The Daily Stampede. We won't have a HOT TAKE every week, but when we do they will always be issued on Tuesday. Put on your oven mitts and flame-retardant suits and let's go.


Orlando Antigua came to USF in April 2014. Like literally every coach hired before him, he was given the Herculean task of rebuilding USF basketball. Antigua was John Calipari's right-hand man at Kentucky, and with him came the promise of a fresh offensive approach and new recruiting inroads.

Antigua's first season was bad. John Egbunu and Zach LeDay left during the transition. Anthony Collins became a square peg in a new round hole, destined to leave as well. Many nights the offense was Corey Allen Jr. just doing stuff, until the NCAA found a reason to declare him ineligible.

His second season was even worse. USF flirted with its worst record ever in basketball, lost to a bunch of non-conference tomato cans, and won only eight games. Meanwhile Egbunu settled into the lineup at Florida, LeDay broke out at Virginia Tech, and Collins returned to the NCAA Tournament with Texas A&M.

With the feeling that Stan Heath was railroaded out of town by Mark Harlan and Judy Genshaft, and the recent dismissal of Chris Perry, there are already people putting Antigua on the hot seat.

I'd go the other way.

We should give Orlando Antigua as much time as he needs to get USF basketball going again.

Antigua is at worst a neutral game coach. The Calipari system naturally flows to the best players and doesn't make baffling strategic decisions. The problem is, except for Allen and maybe Jahmal McMurray, USF hasn't had players good enough to make it work yet.

Antigua can develop players. Remember how subpar Jaleel Cousins was when he first came to USF two years ago? He fouled out of five games even though he only averaged 11 minutes a game. He didn't assert himself on either end, and played much smaller than he was. Last season he led USF in rebounds and blocked shots, cut way down on his fouls, did his share on offense, and drew more fouls than anyone on the team.

Antigua has recruiting chops. He found McMurray and Luis Santos last season, and should have had Tulio Da Silva too before the infamous Academic Committee intervened. (Da Silva will hopefully be eligible next year.) Last fall he signed three more highly-regarded prospects in Troy Baxter, Andres Feliz and Malik Fitts. Now he has another scholarship to work with after Perry was dismissed and the signing window is open for another month.

And let's go back and review the hand Antigua was dealt when he came in. Remember how Heath's 2012-13 classes looked like game changers? They turned out to be a complete bill of goods.

The only reason USF escaped NCAA probation for the John Egbunu recruitment is because everyone involved was gone by the time the investigation was done, including Egbunu, Heath, and Doug Woolard. Egbunu could not possibly have stayed, so what he's doing for Florida is irrelevant.

Javontae Hawkins left for Eastern Kentucky and racked up some rather inflated numbers thanks to the Colonels' breakneck pace. Musa Abdul-Aleem was another in a long line of sharpshooters who couldn't shoot. Zach LeDay didn't look like much of a loss when he left following a 2014 season where he averaged 3.2 points and 2.5 rebounds a game. Dre' Clayton ended up at a JUCO. Perry got himself kicked off the team due to chronic rules violations.

The only two Heath players left are Bo Zeigler, who doesn't look like much more than a rotation guy, and Troy Holston Jr., who tore his ACL last summer and missed the entire season. What exactly did you expect Antigua to make out of that?

And finally, ask yourself this: Who the hell could USF get to coach here that's affordable and better than what we have now?

It didn't look that way at the time, but Orlando Antigua inherited a complete shambles. The only way to make USF basketball worse than it is now would be to threaten another coach's job, make him panic with bad win-now moves, and then fire him and start the whole building process all over again. It's time to back off, be patient, and give Antigua however long it takes to finish building his program.