Dave Leitao Resigns as Virginia Men's Basketball Coach

The Washington Post's John Feinstein comments on his reaction to Dave Leitao resigning as men's basketball coach for the Virginia Cavaliers. Audio by John Feinstein/The Washington Post
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CHARLOTTESVILLE, March 16 -- Following the Virginia men's basketball team's worst season in more than four decades, Dave Leitao resigned Monday after his fourth season in charge of the program.

The decision was announced following a meeting between Leitao and Athletic Director Craig Littlepage. Players were notified in a team meeting, according to sources. A national search will begin immediately, although Littlepage said in the statement that no time frame has been set because possible replacements include coaches currently coaching in the postseason.

Virginia finished this past season 10-18 overall and 4-12 in the ACC, 11th in the 12-team league. Leitao, whose contract ran through the 2012-13 season, received a $2.1 million buyout. His staff will not be retained, according to a university official.

Leitao closes his Virginia career with a 63-60 record; the Cavaliers' lone NCAA tournament appearance in his tenure came in 2007, when they reached the second round. He was named ACC coach of the year that season. Leitao's tenure is the shortest of a Virginia head coach since Roy Randall spent the 1929-30 season with the Cavaliers.

"Dave has been a respected colleague and a fine University representative in the local community during his tenure here," Littlepage said in a statement. "He brought a great deal of leadership, discipline and integrity to his coaching responsibilities."

Before arriving at Virginia, Leitao was the head coach at DePaul for three seasons after serving as an assistant under Jim Calhoun at Connecticut from 1996 to 2002. He also coached Northeastern from 1994 to 1996. Leitao replaced Pete Gillen at Virginia in 2005 and guided the program during the opening of the $129.8 million John Paul Jones Arena in 2006.

The Cavaliers wrestled with inexperience this season. and attendance dipped. Virginia averaged 10,219 at home games -- down from 11,705 in 2007-08 and 13,521 in 2006-07. Capacity is 14,593.

However, the players were optimistic about next season because Virginia returns its top six scorers. Unless an underclassman transfers, the only players departing are seniors Mamadi Diane and Tunji Soroye, who averaged a combined 28 minutes.

The brightest spot of the Cavaliers' season was freshman Sylven Landesberg, who was named ACC rookie of the year. Steve Landesberg, Sylven's father, confirmed that his son plans to return to Virginia despite the coaching change.

"He was devastated, because him and Coach Leitao got to be very close -- close enough they were friends," Steve Landesberg said of Sylven. "We support Leitao 100 percent. We all like Leitao. Sylven was emotional."

Steve Landesberg said Leitao's office was always open and that Sylven met with the coach on a daily basis. Littlepage called the Landesberg family after the decision was made. Steve Landesberg hoped that director of basketball operations Rick Brunson returns.

"We support Virginia," Steve Landesberg told Littlepage. "No need for you to call."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company