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More On UVa's Leitao Move

On Monday, one bare day after the ACC Tournament, Virginia pushed Dave Leitao out. What happened? Aside from the obvious, that is.  No one was happy with Virginia's lousy season, and one paper referred to the slowing of fund raising and how difficult it is to turn that around once it heads south.  Understood.

Another, though, referred to Leitao's abrasive personality, saying that " may have been Leitao’s demeanor, as much as his on-court results, that ultimately led to his demise. A protégée of Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, Leitao often rubbed media, fans and even his own players the wrong way. 

"While Leitao’s drill sergeant approach was initially just what the doctor ordered – he had replaced Pete Gillen, a coach whose regime was considered too lax – it eventually angered too many of the wrong people."

There's probably a lot to that.  We've been calling him Bob Knight without the charm.  He berates his players publicly, which is really unfortunate.  We're not saying he yells at them; every coach does that.  It's closer to humiliation.

We linked to a story over the summer about UVa's radio man, who was let go, who said that he wasn't crazy about losing his job but at least he wouldn't have to interview Leitao after losses anymore.

After he transferred, T.J. Bannister went back to Virginia periodically but he refused to deal with his old coach.  And just recently, Mamadi Diane's father (and Mamadi to a much lesser extent) ripped Leitao for how he handled his son, basically calling him callous.

You heard some of the same echoes in media stories about Leitao - the press clearly had had enough of him.  That's not always a valid measure, but there was a sense of contempt that bubbled up, of more than just being annoyed with a poor coach.  There were a lot of people who ended up disliking Leitao, including perhaps some donors.

Could he have survived this year?  Perhaps - if he had built up a reservoir of good will.  People will be patient with a coach who struggles if they like him and wish for him to succeed.  Think of Les Robinson - he was in over his head at State, but folks gave him a long time before they gave up, and they were actually happy for him to become the A.D. after he quit as coach.

Leitao's personality is abrasive and rough, and when you combine that with a lot of losing and no clear path forward...well.  If you're going to lose, you might as well lose with a guy you actually like.

So the question now becomes:  where does UVa go from here? Tubby Smith's name popped up right away. You might remember that he considered Virginia when they hired Leitao but ultimately decided against it.

He was unhappy enough at Kentucky to take a job in the sub-arctic wilds of Minnesota, and unless he really loves the snow, he might be sick of it already.  Jeff Capel has also been mentioned, as has Sean Miller and Anthony Grant.  And don't overlook Villanova’s Jay Wright; and Michigan’s John Beilein, because they're being mentioned too.  One name hasn't come up that we'd expect to surface relatively soon:  Mike Brey.

Yes, this season was a disappointment.  But Brey has done a solid job at Notre Dame and could do better at Virginia. The guy used to own the recruiting turf of Northern Virginia/DC and could do so again.  Plus the academics at Virginia are not as difficult to navigate as the academics at Notre Dame, and we've heard he wouldn't mind getting back to the East Coast, that he's not really a Midwest sort of guy.

Academically speaking, Miller would do fine - Xavier is a very demanding school - and so would Capel.  Both of them know the ropes.

It's a big choice for Virginia, and a tough time to hire. It's going to be interesting to see this unfold.

Links for this story are on the main tournament links page.

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