ATLANTA — Kentucky coach John Calipari confirmed Thursday that assistant coach Orlando Antigua has interviewed for a “couple” of head coaching jobs in recent weeks and also suggested that assistant Kenny¿Payne would also make a terrific head coach.
Payne, a Mississippi native who played for Denny Crum at Louisville, has ben mentioned as a coaching candidate at Mississippi State.
“He’s probably tougher on our kids than I am, and his recruiting speak for itself,” said Calipari. “And he grew up there, so he would be a good choice.”
Payne was a successful assistant coach at Oregon before coming to Kentucky two years ago, and Calipari said both experiences will help Payne’s coaching career.
Antigua has been mentioned as a potential candidate at Rhode Island.
The Kentucky head coach said he has yet to talk to any school specifically about either Payne or Antigua.
“Obviously, I’m coaching this (the NCAA Tournament),” Calipari said. “If somebody has an interest, they’re going to end up calling me at some point, or I will make a call.”
Two weeks ago, Calipari said he felt Antigua was “ready to be a head coach if that's what he chooses to be.” He said then he had told both Antigua and Payne to let him know if there were jobs they wanted to pursue.
“I think he would be a great head coach. With the way he knows coaching and a lot of things he knows a lot of people. He would be great,” said Kentucky senior Eloy Vargas said of Antigua. “He has been really good for me and Kentucky. I¿have been knowing him a long time, even when I was little back home and before I came over here. He’s from the Dominica (Republic) like me and he has a good name because he played for the (Harlem) Globetrotters.”
Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did not know Antigua or Payne that well until he got to UK. He thinks both have all the tools to be successful head coaches.
“They would really be good. Really good. They would be good in life period,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
Kidd-Gilchrist says Antigua has helped him a lot.
“He’s a great guy I think. He would be a great head coach because guys would like him and he knows basketball. He can talk to you or instruct you. On or off the court, he’s great,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.