A shakeup of the Kentucky basketball coaching staff moved from a topic of speculation to just shy of confirmation of fact Thursday.
According to multiple media reports, assistant coach Joel Justus is leaving UK to join Bobby Hurley’s staff at Arizona State. Justus could not be reached for comment.
Jonathan Givony of ESPN cited sources in saying assistant coach Tony Barbee is a leading candidate after interviewing for the head coaching job at Central Michigan. Jeff Goodman of Stadium cited a source saying Barbee to the Chippewas was a done deal.
Reports have the jobs not staying vacant for long. Former Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua is reportedly set to reunite with UK Coach John Calipari.
And Antigua may not be the only Illinois staffer coming to Kentucky. There have also been reports of assistant coach Ron “Chin” Coleman making the same Champaign-to-Lexington move.
ESPN also reported that former UK player Brad Calipari, who played his final two seasons for Detroit Mercy, is expected to join his father’s staff in some capacity.
Justus came to Kentucky in 2014 as director of analytics. Two years later, after also serving as the special assistant to Calipari, he became an assistant coach.
Justus took the lead in the recruitment of Skyy Clark, a five-star point guard in the high school class of 2022. The player’s father, Kenny Clark, saluted Justus.
“That’s our guy,” the elder Clark told the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts. “We’ve spent the last 18 months developing a great relationship with him. So it hurts.”
But Kenny Clark said he understood the move to Arizona State.
“It sounds like he’s going to be the lead assistant to the head coach,” the player’s father said. “So, it sounds like a tick up the ladder for him.”
For the Big Blue Nation, UK’s staff shakeup is widely seen as a chance to reinvigorate Kentucky’s recruiting. The recruiting service 247Sports ranks the incoming class of 2021 at No. 7 nationally. That’s the lowest ranking for a Kentucky class since John Calipari became coach in 2009.
It can be noted that 247Sports ranked UK’s haul in the high school class of 2020 first nationally. That followed a well-established pattern in which 247Sports ranked Kentucky’s classes first, second or third every other year of Calipari’s tenure as coach.
If and when Antigua rejoins the UK staff, it will be the third time Calipari has hired him.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Antigua was an assistant coach on Calipari’s first five UK staffs beginning in 2009-10. He had been an assistant coach for Calipari at Memphis in the 2008-09 season.
In Kentucky’s media guide for the 2011-12 season, Antigua is cited for having an “eye for talent on the recruiting trail” and is credited with helping UK sign top-ranked recruiting classes for the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
Antigua left Kentucky after the 2013-14 season to become head coach at South Florida. He compiled a 23-55 record (7-31 in the American Athletic Conference) before being fired on Jan. 3, 2017 amidst an 18-month NCAA investigation into what was termed the lowest possible “major” infractions involving impermissible benefits provided by assistant coach and younger brother Oliver Antigua.