In 2004 Louisville assistant coach Mick Cronin left Pitino’s staff to take the head coaching job at Murray State. After just three seasons as the Racers head man Cronin moved on to be the head coach at Cincinnati. His replacement Billy Kennedy this weekend left town to become the head coach at Texas A&M after a succesful five-year stint in Murray, Kentucky.
Could the local position opening be a good opportunity for Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua or Kenny Payne now?
With Rick Pitino watching assistant coach Steve Masiello move on to Manhattan College and the process of bringing in three new faces, well two new and one repeat, the odds of someone leaving his staff to take over somewhere are very unlikely. Kentucky on the other hand has a pair of assistant coaches in Antigua and Payne that are primed to take that next step.
First there is Kenny Payne. He just finished his first year under Calipari at Kentucky and may not be ready for a head coaching job. Known more for his recruiting ties then his ability to perform X and O’s though, Payne did spend six seasons as an assistant at Oregon before joining Kentucky’s staff. In Payne’s tenure at Oregon, the Ducks won a Pac-10 title and made the Elite Eight in 2007. Losing to eventual champion Florida.
The Racers other Kentucky assistant option could be Orlando Antigua. Antigua has a better resume then his colleague Kenny Payne and may be better prepared to take over his first head coaching position. He has worked under Calipari for the last three years (two at UK and one at Memphis) and has been a huge component in bringing in three straight recruiting classes to Calipari of historic proportions. Prior to his brief stay in Memphis, Antigua worked at his alma mater, Pittsburgh. Antigua spent five seasons at Pittsburgh were the Panthers won 20+ games each year as well as one Big East regular season title and one Big East tournament title.
Would either of Calipari’s assistants want to leave a Kentucky bench and roster that is favored along with North Carolina as a favorite to win the national title this season?
Would Murray State be a big enough name to get a coach like an Antigua away from Calipari?
The answer to both those questions can only be told in time but it is certain they both might be ready to move on. My own opinion says that this would be a good move for Antigua. Payne may not be ready just yet to be a head man but Antigua, who has been Calipari’s right hand man the last three seasons should be ready. Why not make Murray State his first head job?
The Racers are coming off a OVC regular season title and were in the second round of the NCAA tournament the year before. Knocking off SEC Vanderbilt before falling to national runner-up Butler 54-52. Murray will bring back their top scorer in sophomore guard Isaiah Canaan and their top rebounder in junior forward Ivan Aska next season.