- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Barry Rohrssen called his new job as a Kentucky assistant coach a “dream come true.”

The Wildcats believe they have the right man to help fulfill their vision of a ninth national championship.

Rohrssen was introduced Tuesday, two weeks after being hired for a program coming off a runner-up finish to Connecticut in the NCAA title game. The 53-year-old spent last season at Pittsburgh and has more than 19 years of college experience, including five as Manhattan College’s head coach. He has also worked for the NBA Portland Trail Blazers’ developmental league affiliate.

Though Rohrssen isn’t sure what his bench role will be under Kentucky coach and longtime friend John Calipari, his strong recruiting background fits perfectly with the Wildcats, who have landed five straight No. 1 classes.

“Plays work great when you have great players, so you better find the good ones,” Rohrssen said of his recruiting philosophy during a news conference.

That an assistant coach hiring would even merit such coverage was further proof to Rohrssen that Kentucky isn’t just any basketball program.

“One of the things that you hear about from the outside, and you certainly learn when you get into this town and on this campus, is they do things big,” he said. “You really appreciate how consumed this town and this state is and how supportive they are in their love for basketball.”

Rohrssen (pronounced ROAR-son) replaces Orlando Antigua, who left after the Wildcats’ remarkable title-game run to become head coach at South Florida.

He joins a program featuring nine high school All-Americans and several returning regulars who again will face huge expectations of delivering a national title after coming close last season.

“We’re all looking forward to it, very much,” Rohrssen said of the looming challenge. “I guess a lot of people are. … Probably most importantly, it seems that the players are.”

Nicknamed “Slice” for his skills in getting to the basket by Five Star Camp founder and pending Hall of Fame inductee Howard Garfinkel, Rohrssen reunites with Calipari, his roommate when both were camp counselors in college. Though they’ve never met on the court, they’ve stayed in touch over the years.

Rohrssen’s relationship with Kentucky goes back even further, to working with former Wildcats coach Joe B. Hall’s camp. He said he had talked with Calipari about a previous opening at Kentucky before choosing to stay at Pitt, where he served two stints totaling eight years in various roles under Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon from 1999-2006 and last season.

He sandwiched a 58-95 record from 2006-11 with Manhattan and has worked at UNLV along with coaching U.S. teams in international competition. Rohrssen’s experience has led to several offers over the years, and there was no declining Calipari’s latest overture to come aboard.

“He’s been very kind,” Rohrssen said of Calipari, “and I better take it this time because there may come a time he doesn’t ask anymore. I’m sure there’s a long line of people that would want this, and every year the line gets longer.”

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