April 18 - A Cavalier Attitude
By now, you’ve surely heard the slogan “Virginia is for lovers”.
The problem of late has been that Virginia is not for lovers of college basketball.
Former University of Virginia coach Pete Gillen was summarily shown the door after a last-place finish
by his club in the ACC, and the search was on for his replacement. Virginia fans were on edge with
various rumors of Gillen’s replacement, and for once, Virginians again started to care about college
Kentucky coach Tubby Smith’s name was often tossed about throughout the proceedings. In fact,
Virginia fans thought for the longest time that he would be coming to Charlottesville.
In the end, Smith, along with Texas coach Rick Barnes, South Carolina coach Dave Odom, and a
presumable host of others decided to stay at their schools, out of loyalty to their programs and the kids
which wore the school’s uniforms.
Loyalty. Funny word, that.
Virginia’s coaching search then turned to a man who, from afar, seems to be the antithesis of that very
DePaul coach Dave Leitao, he of the 80-69 career record in stints at Northeastern (2 years) and DePaul
(3 years) was certainly no stranger to coaching searches. Leitao entertained overtures from St. John’s
and Auburn last off-season, before finally withdrawing his name from both searches. Leitao was then
rewarded with a handsome six-year extension.
At the time, Leitao said, “I am looking forward to continuing our journey of building the DePaul basketball
program for many years to come. In the first two seasons here, I’ve come to realize that DePaul is a
special place with special people. I am also honored to be the head coach of such a beloved program
and I am excited to know that we will be able to continue to add to its rich history.”
That journey continued for a mere seven months.
There is much conjecture about Leitao’s departure for ostensibly greener pastures. Some say that he
wanted no part of coaching against his mentor Jim Calhoun (DePaul will be a Big East member in 2005-
06), and others suggest that he felt he stood a better shot of getting his dream job (Connecticut) once
Calhoun retires if he coached at Virginia, as opposed to DePaul.
Whatever the reason, Leitao will be expected to win early and often at Virginia. Despite the recent
shortcomings of the program, there is a considerable basketball tradition in Charlottesville. Leitao will
be counted on to further that tradition.
That is, of course, until he gets lured away for his next journey.