Thursday, April 14, 2005

The 'Hoos who?

Is it soon to be official? According to, "sources" told Dick Vitale that Dave Leitao (say "lee toe") will be the Cavaliers' next head basketball coach, replacing the fired-entirely-too-late Pete Gillen. Leitao was the "associate head coach" for Jim Calhoun at UConn, then spent one year as the head coach at DePaul. The Blue Demons were 20-11 this year, and second-round NIT losers; last year they were 21-9 and three of their top four scorers were major contributors last season -- in other words, not a great job here and certainly not some inspirational improvement.

Leitao is a commodity because of his apprenticeship under Calhoun. Seems nice, but Quin Snyder, Mike Brey and Tommy Amaker have only decent records as head coaches and they learned under Coach K.

Tell me this doesn't sound like another Matt Doherty situation: young coach, Hall of Fame mentor, solid season at mid-level program of major conference, comes to ACC. Doherty flopped badly. That does not bode well for Leitao.

Virginia is at best a second-tier basketball school in a top-3 basketball conference. The Cavaliers' last Final Four appearance was 1984*, when they could play stall-ball in the no-shot-clock era. The closest the Cavs have been since: two regional final losses (1989 to Michigan and 1995 to Arkansas). The only time Virginia has EVER won the ACC regular season race without Ralph Sampson was 1995, when it tied with Wake, Maryland and UNC at 12-4; it still has not won an ACC Tournament since 1976. This year Virginia finished behind ACC newcomers Virginia Tech (a football-first school) and Miami (ditto).

So Leitao has a school without a top basketball reputation, competing against five of the top 25 programs in the country just in two neighboring states (Duke, UNC, Maryland, Wake, NC State); a conference whose best talent pools are not draining toward Charlottesville (D.C.-area, South Florida); and a new arena one year from now that needs to have a good product to ensure people fill the seats. Those factors clearly show why Virginia could not pry Tubby Smith from Kentucky (be real -- from a top-10 national program to a barely top-10 ACC program? What were the Cavs thinking?). Virginia wanted to "hit a homerun" with its choice for a new hoops coach. At this point, choosing Dave Leitao means Virginia needs another at-bat.

* corrected: I forgot when Sampson graduated, UVa went to the Final Four the year afterward when Georgetown whomped Kentucky and Houston; Houston beat UVa 49-47 in (yawn) OT.

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