What has been rumored came to fruition via the official press release today as 17-year NBA vet Rod Strickland head coach Orlando Antigua's baby brother Oliver Antigua were announced as the new assistant men's basketball coaches for 2014-15. These hires are interesting for a lot of reasons, and show there's clearly a new direction at USF.
Strickland was maybe the most NYC of all NYC point guards ever. A career 45.4% shooter that was only 28.2% from three, he was still one of the best players in the league because of how he could pass and create like no other. When properly motivated and surrounded by good talent (like in his prime from '92-'96 in Portland) he was one of the purest point guards to ever play in the NBA. But his reputation as difficult and surly cost him on and off the court, and likely a reason that he unjustly never made an All-Star team.
After retiring in 2005, Strickland became the Director of Student-Athlete Development at Memphis, then the Director of Basketball Operations. He was an assistant coach for Kentucky during John Calipari's first season at Kentucky in 2009-10, but was then demoted after getting his fourth DUI arrest and third conviction in 2010. He received his degree in sports leadership from Northeastern Illinois University in 2013, and was also arrested in August of 2012 for driving on a suspended license, failure to signal and having no vehicle registration.
Honestly we were kind of shocked by this hire. USF has never, ever taken the guy with a lot of baggage even in an assistant role, and there are enough red flags here to teach a semaphore class. But there's a new regime in the Selmon Center, and Lord knows what we've been doing hasn't been working. Jim Leavitt built a football program by taking chances on kids the bigger schools didn't want because of certain issues. When you're not the big dog on the porch, you've got to gamble occasionally. I guess this is USF taking a chance. And they go into this with eyes wide open, as the following shows:
Statement from #USF executive associate AD Barry Clements: "After speaking extensively with many people who know Rod well and have spent..."— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) April 15, 2014
"a great deal of time with him...including Coach Antigua, and also spending time with Rod, we are confident he has moved beyond those..."— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) April 15, 2014
"challenges and will be an asset to our program and University."— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) April 15, 2014
One of the brightest basketball guys we ever met was Brad Greenberg when he was the Director of Basketball Operations at USF. He once told us Rod Strickland was one of the smartest basketball minds he'd ever seen. That he was a total hoops junkie that just loved the game and played it and thought about it on a higher level. And anyone old enough to remember watching Strickland as a player can attest he was just a joy to watch.
Nobody's perfect, and we've been told Strickland is four years sober. This piece from espn.com shows what part of his rehab was like with John Lucas in Houston. Let's hope he's put these issues in his past and can start fresh here in Tampa.
Also hired was Oliver Antigua, who leaves Seton Hall to join his brother in Tampa. Antigua was a head coach at St. Raymond High School in the Bronx for 13 years before joining Steve Masiello's staff at Manhattan in 2012. In 2013 he moved across the river to Seton Hall, where he was last season. According to the press release, his boss and brother says "he helped assemble a recruiting class at Seton Hall that was ranked No. 10 in the nation and No. 1 in the Big East Conference."
Oliver also played at Pitt with his brother, and also served as an assistant coach for a year after finishing as a player before returning to coach his old high school in the Bronx.
Also something that needs to be mentioned: I know when Seth Greenberg hired his brother Brad at USF in 2001 he was forced to make him the Director of Basketball Operations instead of a full assistant coach due to some nepotism rules at the university. Brad reported directly to Lee Roy Selmon since he couldn't be his brother's direct supervisor. I'm not sure what's changed since then, but obviously some sort of accommodation was found here.