It's official now - DePaul's Dave Leitao will become the new coach at
Virginia. He's been considered a rising star for some time, despite his
miserable performance at Northeastern as head coach. Even his A.D. there
says it was a difficult situation and that he would hire him again, and you
wouldn't hear that too often after a 4 win season.
He earned his stripes at UConn working for Jim Calhoun, so it's reasonable to
expect Virginia to become a team which uses a lot of pressure defense and breaks
as often as possible.
He's also widely hailed as a first rate recruiter.
An argument against him is that selling Chicago is very different from
selling Charlottesville, and that's true as far as it goes. But he's got
some stuff to sell: an excellent education, for one, the best conference in the
nation, for another, and it's not like UVa is a real long ways from the
You can expect him and his assistants to spend a lot of time there looking
With the hiring of Leitao, and the imminent arrival of B.C., the ACC will
have six African-American coaches (Leonard Hamilton, Frank Haith, Paul Hewitt,
Oliver Purnell, Leitao and Skinner), which is a big change from not too very
The next question is: can someone win at Virginia? The standard thing
is to say that in 50+ years, blah, blah, blah. But first of all, you have
to toss out everything before Terry Holland, because Virginia didn't take the
Under Holland, Virginia won an ACC title, got to two Final Fours, and had
significant recruiting successes, including of course Ralph Sampson, Jeff Lamp,
Lee Raker, and Jeff Jones.
Jones ultimately succeeded Holland and for a while the future looked
bright. Unfortunately, he crashed and burned, much like his own successor,
Both guys started off well, though, and Holland had sustained success.
So in the last 30 years, although Virginia can only claim one ACC title, they
have had some significant stretches of success.
And to underscore the point a bit more, do you think if Mike Krzyzewski or
Dean Smith had ended up at Virginia instead of Duke or UNC that they would not
have succeeded? Of course they would have. So would have Jim Calhoun,
Lefty Driesell, and any number of other people.
So the question for Virginia is pretty basic: is Leitao liable to
self-destruct like Jones and Gillen, or to endure and succeed, like Terry
We're guessing it'll be more like Holland's time, with some significant
differences. First of all, while Holland's teams were admirable, they were
rarely exciting. We expect Leitao to have an exciting, pressing,up tempo
And secondly, we're thinking that the days of excuses, recruiting and
otherwise, are over. When Jeff Jones messed things up, he argued to Terry
Holland that it was his mess and he should clean it up. He got a chance to
do it, but didn't get it done.
Pete Gillen, despite many fine personality traits, made a lot of excuses for
why his teams didn't succeed.
And there has always been a tendency to assume Virginia can't recruit
Leitao did a solid job recruiting job at DePaul, but where he should really
get props is in Storrs.
For all the comments about how Charlottesville is a tough place to recruit,
Storrs is more remote, not nearly as picturesque, and quite a bit colder.
It's easy to say UConn now and people pay attention. But their rise was
not overnight, and Leiato surely had a lot to do with their success, and with
getting players in.
All in all, Virginia fans, we think, should be excited. We think Craig
Littlepage did well.