Bulls starting over, again, in basketball

by Gary Shelton on January 4, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, USF basketball

Coach Antigua celebrates a Bulls victory on his birthday./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Coach Antigua couldn't keep the index fingers raised../ANDREW J. KRAMER

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

The USF Bulls didn't just fire Orlando Antigua Tuesday.

They fired their latest hope. They fired their fresh start. They fired any hint at relevancy. They fired the head of a program that was going nowhere in a nothing conference. They fired not mattering.

Oh, Antigua took the brunt of it all, of course. He was the latest coach who couldn't get you to look and who couldn't get you to care. In 2 ½ years, he was 23-55, an embarrassing record for anyone giving scholarships. In the 11-team AAC, USF was ninth, and it's a good bet they'll fall behind Connecticut soon.

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Antigua never build any momentum with the Bulls. His players kept leaving, and after a while, it was like watching a program spin its wheels. It didn't help that, at the same time, the football team got better every year. They were exciting. They were fun. They made it cool to be a Bull.

Funny. There was a time it was popular to think that Antigua was on firmer ground because he was a Mark Harlan hire, which Willie Taggart was not. Turns out, that's no longer true.

“After a thorough and deliberate review of our men’s basketball program, a decision has been made to make a head coaching change,” Harlan’s statement said. “I met with Coach Antigua earlier today to inform him of this and to thank him for his service to USF. We wish Coach Antigua and his family the very best.”

Assistant coach Murray Bartow will serve as the team’s interim coach for the remainder of this season. Harlan said he would begin a national search for a new head coach immediately.

Look, it should be doable. USF is a big enough school in a big enough city. It needs a dynamic coach who doesn't see the limitations of the program. The American isn't exactly the Big East or the ACC.  The right guy with the right energy can survive here.

The basketbulls? Not so much. They were a headache that would not go away. There was an NCAA investigation, which is still going on. If the Bulls are guilty, it's embarrassing to cheat and only get a few wins for it.

They won fewer games than any team in the American last year. Fewer than any team in the American the year before.

It has never been a good basketball job, USF. Not since the Bulls were playing in tiny leagues has there been any sustained success. Seth Greenberg tried hard, but for the most part, USF coaches seemed resigned to their fate. They knew they couldn't win here.
That's why there was such hope for Antigua. He was John Calipari's right hand, and Cal managed to win big at Memphis. You ask: What does Memphis have that USF doesn't have? Well, wins. Momentum. Hope. What does Tulsa have? What does UCF have? Ambition. Victories. Growth.

That's the thing about college basketball. You can win at a lot of small schools.

Just not at USF.

Why not? Oh, you can hear all the time that Florida isn't a great basketball state. But UCF is 12-3, and it plays in Florida. So does UF. So does Miami. So does FSU.

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