Virginia was on the verge last night of hiring its first African American coach in any sport.
DePaul basketball coach Dave Leitao, 43, flew to Charlottesville yesterday on the University of Virginia Foundation's Cessna jet and spent about 7 1/2 hours on campus. He left Charlottesville around 8 last night and flew to a small airport outside of Chicago. ESPN.com reported that Leitao would be hired as Pete Gillen's successor in 24 to 48 hours, and sources close to the search told The Washington Post that Leitao's hiring could be announced as early as today.
Virginia would owe DePaul between $1 million and $2.5 million, sources said, to buy out the remaining five years of Leitao's contract. Leitao is 58-34 in three seasons with the Blue Demons, leading them to the National Invitational Tournament this past season. Two years ago, he guided DePaul to its first NCAA tournament victory since 1989 and shared the Conference USA title with four other schools.
Before coaching at DePaul, Leitao was an assistant to Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun, helping the Huskies win the 1999 national championship. Leitao also served as head coach of Northeastern, his alma mater, and was 22-35 in two seasons.
Virginia President John T. Casteen III and Athletic Director Craig Littlepage apparently chose Leitao over South Carolina Coach Dave Odom, who met with the U-Va. officials during the Final Four in St. Louis earlier this month. Odom denied a Washington Post report that he was offered the Virginia job, but sources close to the search said a deal fell apart once it leaked.
The Cavaliers also tried to lure Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith to Virginia, but he never spoke to Littlepage and never seriously considered the job.
-- Mark Schlabach