(WCIA) — Illinois head coach Brad Underwood has a big task ahead of him as he tires to fill the gaps in his coaching staff, after losing his prized assistants to Kentucky.
Underwood already added former Illini and former Virginia Tech assistant coach Chester Frazier to help replace Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman who were hired onto the Wildcats staff this week. The two helped bring Illinois back to national relevancy, but underwood and athletic director Josh Whitman are working to make sure the program stays there.
“We’re Top-10 Program we should act like it,” says head coach Brad Underwood. “I’ve said it since the day we got here. and we’ve got to continue to build on that momentum, and we’ve got to continue to act like the Duke’s and whoever you want to talk about. That’s my goal, that’s why I wanted to be here, and Josh has done nothing but be supportive of that. That’s the growth of this program is that we’re thinking along those lines exactly.”
Getting Illinois to blue blood status will be tough when some of the best recruiters in the game are now working against the program. Coleman helped recruit Ayo Dosunmu out of Chicago, who is now moving on to the NBA Draft along with Kofi Cockburn. Antigua was the primary recruiter for Cockburn and Andre Curbelo –who helped bring Illinois to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013.
Although, Kentucky didn’t make the big dance this year coming off one of the worst seasons in program history, with a record of 9-16. But when Hall of Fame coach John Calipari comes calling, it’s tough opportunity to pass up.
“When you’re someone who’s like Chin who is still up and coming and he gets an opportunity to work with a Hall of Fame coach it’s very appealing, very attractive,” says Antigua. “It’s the winningest program in college history. Those things are easy to sell.”
“This place is on steroids. It is different. It hits different,” says Coleman. “I understand the dynamics of that. Having Coach Antigua who has been through it all already before to kind of help me with the transition is also a very, very good opportunity for me to have.”
Antigua was part of Kentucky’s staff from 2009-2014 when the program made three appearances in the Final Four.