Dave Leitao, a conference championship head coach during stops at DePaul and Virginia, enters his second season as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri.
One of the most respected coaches in college basketball, Leitao has been a difference maker at each stop throughout his successful career and helped the Tigers integrate four new starters and 12 new players in Head Coach Frank Haith's second season. Among Leitao's many accomplishments on the hardwood are league titles at DePaul (2004) and Virginia (2007), as well as 22 career postseason appearances, including 13 NCAA Tournaments. His championship pedigree includes the 1999 National Championship at the University of Connecticut, where he served as the Associate Head Coach under Basketball Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun.
Last season at Mizzou Leitao assisted with both the guards and the forwards, helping the Tigers rank among the national leaders in both offensive efficiency and rebounding. Leitao also provided another veteran presence on the bench as Missouri topped 20 wins for the fifth consecutive year and returned to NCAA Tournament play despite having just one returning player from the previous season.
"Dave was such a valuable resource for our team last season and having coached and recruited against him for so many years it was a major coup for our program to be able to recruit Dave to our campus," Head Coach Frank Haith said. "Our players have such tremendous respect for Dave and his years of experience coaching and mentoring young people has paid big dividends for our program."
Named the 2007 ACC Coach of the Year after leading the Virginia Cavaliers to an 11-5 league mark (21-11 overall) and a win in the NCAA Tournament, the 53-year-old comes to Mizzou after one season coaching the Maine Red Claws of the National Basketball Association's Developmental League (NBDL). He led Maine to a three-game improvement last season, working with an organization that is the official minor league partner of the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and the Charlotte Bobcats.
The New Bedford, Mass., native has 27 seasons of coaching experience under his belt. In the collegiate ranks he most recently spent four seasons at Virginia (2005-09) and three seasons at DePaul (2002-05). He has won 143 career games as a head coach, with three 20-win seasons, two league titles and six trips to postseason play.
"Coach Leitao had such a big impact on all of us," former Tiger Alex Oriakhi said. "He has a great understanding of the game and does a great job communicating and teaching. I played the best basketball of my career last season and it had to do with the coaching. This staff puts their trust in you and really instills the confidence you need to go out there and perform at your best."
Leitao was mentored into college basketball under the Hall of Famer, Jim Calhoun, who recruited the 6-foot-7 forward to Northeastern University (1978-82). As a student-athlete, Leitao's teams went 79-34 overall and he was named team captain each of his final two seasons, each of which culminated with a trip to the NCAA Tournament. His 1982 Northeastern Huskies won a first round contest against St. Joseph's before falling to third-seeded Villanova in triple overtime. Over his four seasons Leitao averaged 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds and was known for his defensive intensity, which has fueled his coaching focus.
"The University of Missouri has been a great experience for me and my family," Leitao said. "Missouri is a national program with tremendous success, incredible facilities, passionate fans and first-class leadership of Mike Alden and Chancellor Brady Deaton. You see everything that has taken place on this campus over recent years and you can't help but to be excited about the momentum we have going forward."
Leitao began his coaching career as a full-time assistant under Calhoun at his alma mater in 1984, helping Northeastern to two more NCAA berths and a combined 48-14 record. The pair then moved to the University of Connecticut where the team grew from a 9-19 mark in year one (1986-87) to make seven consecutive postseason trips, four NCAA Tournaments, two NCAA Sweet 16's and an NCAA Elite Eight.
That run propelled Leitao to his first head coaching job at Northeastern (1994-96) where he won 18 games as a first year head coach. He then returned to UConn as Associate Head Coach and made six more postseason trips highlighted by the 1999 NCAA Championship.
At UConn Leitao assisted in the recruitment of several future NBA performers including the likes of Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Donyell Marshall, Clifford Robinson, Jake Voskuhl, Travis Knight, Scott Burrell, Caron Butler, Khalid El-Amin, Tate George, Donny Marshall and Kevin Ollie.
"I've known Dave so long, he is practically a member of my family," former Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun said. "As a player, he was a great leader and he came with me from Day One at UConn to help build a program, so he obviously shares in an awful lot of the success we've been fortunate enough to achieve.
"He went on to become a tremendous head coach, winning an ACC championship and being named ACC Coach of the Year," Calhoun continued. "But besides being an outstanding coach, he's an outstanding person --- one of the best people I've ever been involved with as a player, a coach, and a close friend. What Dave adds to the Missouri staff is a coach who has seen everything from building a program, to recruiting at the highest level, to winning national championships, to developing young men into players who can succeed at the next level. He has first-hand experience in every phase of college basketball and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a tremendous asset to Coach Haith's staff. I wish him nothing but great success at Missouri."
Connecticut made two more NCAA Elite Eight trips (1998 and 2002) during his second stint in Storrs, Conn., and following a 2001-02 campaign in which the Huskies went 27-6, a more seasoned Leitao returned to the sidelines as a head coach at DePaul. The Blue Demons won 58 games over three years in Chicago and advanced to three consecutive postseasons. His 2004 squad shared the Conference USA title and qualified for the NCAA Tournament, while his 2005 Blue Demons earned a postseason NIT victory over Missouri at Mizzou Arena in 2005. In Leitao's first season, the Blue Demons were one of college basketball's most improved clubs going from a 9-19 mark (2-12 in C-USA) the year before his arrival to 16-13 (8-8 C-USA). In fact Leitao's league crown and NCAA berth at DePaul remain the most recent in that program's history.
Leitao then took over at Virginia in 2005-06 and led the program to three postseason trips, including the league title in 2007. That 2007 Cavaliers squad was pegged eighth in the ACC preseason poll, but shared the conference title with North Carolina and recorded the most league wins (11) since 1994-95. That team also topped Albany in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, marking Virginia's first NCAA appearance since 2001 and first NCAA win since 1995.
Leitao has used an attention to detail and defensive mindset as a catalyst for success at each stop. Virginia led the ACC (in league games) in field goal percentage defense (.408) in 2007 and consistently ranked among the league's better rebounding clubs.
DAVE LEITAO CAREER COACHING RECORD
Assistant Coach: Northeastern (1984-86)
1984-85 22-9 NCAA First Round
1985-86 26-5 NCAA First Round
Two Seasons 48-14 (.774)