By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, APRIL 24, 2014 – Oliver Antigua said becoming an assistant men’s basketball coach at USF was a “dream come true” opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
Antigua served a similar role at Seton Hall last season and helped the Pirates put together the top-ranked recruiting class in the Big East before heading to Tampa to join his older brother Orlando’s staff with the Bulls.
“It’s been a goal of ours for some time, ever since I became a high school coach and he’s been coaching college,” Oliver said. “We’ve always talked about working together in some capacity and to be able to do it now at this time in our careers it’s exceptional. South Florida is an unbelievable university and the opportunities we think we have are limitless.”
The Antigua brothers worked together last summer coaching the Dominican Republic national team and the last time they were on the court together before that was at Pittsburgh. Oliver was a two-time walk-on with the Panthers and he played with Orlando during his senior year in1995 before getting an early taste of the coaching experience.
Pitt was plagued with injuries during Oliver’s senior season in 1998, so he took the court again as a player on top of handling coaching responsibilities under Ralph Willard.
“I was keeping stats, breaking down film and still playing. I was also running the basketball camps for him since I was a sophomore in college because I always wanted to coach,” Oliver said. “I was kind of always beating the coach’s door down, jump into meetings and trying to scout. They were kind of like, ‘Get out, you’re only a student,’ and they eventually just gave in because I always wanted to coach.”
Oliver, a Bronx, N.Y., native, returned to his alma mater at St. Raymond High School for Boys in 1999 and the Ravens won the CHSAA city championships in two of his three seasons as an assistant coach. Oliver went on to become the head coach at St. Raymond and led the team to 186 wins and three intersectional championships (2004, 2004, 2012) in 10 seasons. Oliver earned CHSAA Coach of the Year honors in 2002 from the New York Daily News and was named coach of the year by the New York Post the following season.
Oliver’s coaching journey continued at Manhattan College during the 2012-13 season, when the Jaspers went all the way to the Metro Atlantic Conference championship game. The journey continued at Seton Hall, where he helped put together a recruiting class that was ranked No. 10 nationally and led the Big East.
“Basketball is my life. I take it very seriously and try to be the best I can,” Antigua said.
Now the Antigua brothers’ basketball paths have crossed once again at USF and Oliver said he’s ready to do anything to help Orlando take the Bulls to a new level.
“At the end of the day I’ll be there for him in maybe a much different role than a regular assistant would be in because he’s blood and I’ll run through a wall for him and go the extra mile,” Oliver said. “We can have family dinners and spend time with the family, so I think there are a lot of benefits to that.”
Like former NBA star Rod Strickland, who also joined the staff as an assistant, Oliver’s responsibilities will include a little bit of everything, which is nothing new to the former player-coach.
“My job is to help the head coach in every aspect – recruiting, academics, making sure the players are taking care of business on and off the court, in the classroom and socially,” Oliver said. “I will help the players get better and help bring in the best student-athletes to represent our university.”
Oliver has been hard at work since joining USF earlier in April and said the Bulls will build a program people can be proud of while doing things the right way.
“I don’t know what the wins and losses are going to be, but we’re going to play hard. We’re going to be a team that defends at a school we’re going to be proud of,” he said. “We’re going to try to build this thing the right way. We’re not going to cut corners; we’re not going to compromise our principles. These are our players now, our family and we’ve told them that. We’re going to try to make them the best players they can be.”