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Cavaliers, Leitao Agree To Terms

Basketball Coach Leaves DePaul

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 16, 2005; Page D01

DePaul men's basketball coach Dave Leitao agreed yesterday to a contract to become the head coach at the University of Virginia, sources said. The Cavaliers are expected to introduce Leitao, who will become their first African American head coach in any sport at the school, at a news conference in Charlottesville early next week.

Leitao, 43, told DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto of his decision yesterday in Chicago, and Leitao told the Blue Demons' players he was taking the Virginia job at a meeting later in the day, sources said on condition of anonymity. Leitao, who was 58-34 in three seasons at DePaul, was interviewed by Virginia officials in Portsmouth, Va., more than a week ago and visited the campus on Thursday.

Former DePaul coach Dave Leitao has been named the new Virginia men's basketball head coach and becomes the first African American to ever coach any sport at the university. (Mark Humphrey - Associated Press)

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Financial terms of Leitao's contract with Virginia weren't immediately known. He earned about $660,000 annually from DePaul, according to published reports, and Virginia will owe the Blue Demons between $1 million and $2.5 million to buy out the final five years of Leitao's contract, sources said.

Leitao didn't return messages to his cell phone; Virginia Athletics Director Craig Littlepage has declined to comment throughout the school's search for a new basketball coach.

Leitao's hiring ends a long and arduous search for the Cavaliers, who were seeking a replacement for Pete Gillen, who agreed to a buyout last month after leading Virginia to only one NCAA tournament appearance in seven seasons. Littlepage interviewed at least one other candidate -- South Carolina Coach Dave Odom, a former Virginia assistant -- before deciding on Leitao. The Washington Post reported April 4 that Virginia had offered Odom the job, but Odom denied the story the following day.

Littlepage also gauged several other coaches' interest in the position, including Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith and Texas Coach Rick Barnes. People representing Virginia also contacted Indiana Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle and Golden State Warriors Coach Mike Montgomery to inquire about their interest.

Leitao, a former Connecticut assistant and head coach at Northeastern, his alma mater, inherits a team that struggled in Gillen's last season. Virginia finished last in the ACC during the 2004-05 season and loses two of its better players, forward Devin Smith and center Elton Brown. Point guard Sean Singletary, who had offseason shoulder surgery, and forward Gary Forbes are the team's top returning players.

Leitao led the Blue Demons to their first NCAA tournament victory since 1989 and shared the 2003-04 Conference USA regular season title with four other schools. He interviewed for the St. John's job last year before he was given a six-year contract extension by the Blue Demons. DePaul moves to the Big East Conference this coming season and sources close to Leitao indicated he didn't want to face his mentor, Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun, at least twice per season.

Leitao's hiring is considered one of the most important in Virginia athletics history because the Cavaliers are scheduled to open new John Paul Jones Arena before the 2006-07 season. The new arena, which will have a capacity of more than 15,000, still lacks about $35 million in funding.

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