“Following our search that garnered high-level national interest, we are excited to announce that Dave Leitao is our next men’s basketball coach,” said athletics director Jean Lenti Ponsetto. “His success here speaks for itself with three postseason appearances in three years with teams that energized our alumni and fans with their competitiveness and work ethic. When he left in 2005, we recognized that it is the nature of our business that dynamic coaches get recruited away. Now we are pleased to welcome Dave, his wife Joyce and their family back to Lincoln Park with great enthusiasm for his leadership and the future development of our men’s basketball program.”
“We are particularly grateful to Parker Executive Search for their guidance and assistance in this process. We had the opportunity to interview superb candidates and in the end Dave surfaced as our number one choice,” said Ponsetto.
Leitao’s first stint at DePaul saw a pair of NIT appearances and a second round showing in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. That NCAA appearance was the last for the Blue Demons. In Leitao’s first season, he led the Blue Demons to one of the top turnarounds in the nation as DePaul posted a 16-13 record after going 9-19 in the previous season. Over his three seasons, he compiled a record of 58-34 that included 44 victories over his final two seasons. In addition to the 2004 squad reaching the NCAA second round, that team also claimed the Conference USA regular-season championship before falling in the championship game of the conference tournament.
“This is a special day for my family and me,” said Leitao. “I underestimated what a special place DePaul University and the city of Chicago are when I left here in 2005. The dedication and support here to the growth of student success is second to none, not only for a basketball program but also for the entire student body. I’m proud and our team will be proud to represent this great institution in one of the world’s great cities. We will exude the work ethic that drives Chicago and the region every day and look forward to everyone joining us next season.”
Leitao’s recruiting success at DePaul saw the Blue Demons sign three eventual NBA Draft picks in Wilson Chandler, Sammy Mejia and Dorell Wright.
Chandler played two seasons at DePaul (2005-07) before he was selected as the 23rd pick in 2007 by the New York Knicks. Mejia played four years at DePaul (2003-07) and was also picked in the 2007 draft as the 57th selection by the Detroit Pistons. Wright signed his NLI with DePaul, but elected to enter the 2004 draft and he was the 19th overall selection by the Miami Heat.
Prior to DePaul, Leitao was associate head coach at Connecticut for six seasons and helped the Huskies win the 1999 NCAA Championship. He was also head coach at Northeastern from 1994-96.
Following the 2004-05 season at DePaul, Leitao accepted the head coach position at Virginia and led the Cavaliers for four seasons. After a NIT appearance in his first season, Virginia shared the ACC title with North Carolina and Leitao was named ACC Coach of the Year and the NABC District 5 Coach of the Year. In addition to his accolades, he also tutored eventual NBA Draft pick Sean Singletary. Singletary earned All-American honors and was the 42nd overall pick of the 2008 draft by the Sacramento Kings.
Most recently, Leitao was an assistant coach at Missouri and Tulsa under Frank Haith. Missouri posted back-to-back 20-win seasons in his time in Columbia that included one NCAA and one NIT appearance. Last season at Tulsa, Leitao helped the Golden Hurricane to 23 wins and a NIT berth.
Leitao joins women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno as coaches who left DePaul programs and returned. Bruno led the Blue Demons from 1976-78 before returning to his alma mater in 1988. Since returning, Bruno has led the program to 20 NCAA Tournament appearances.
“Dave Leitao is a great teacher, a great coach, and most importantly, a great role model for the young men who compete and study at DePaul,” said Bruno. “Our men’s basketball program needs to win. Dave Leitao is not only a proven winner, his teams also have won against the best programs and best coaches in the country. Dave’s teams compete every night out with a vicious toughness made for the beast that is the BIG EAST. Dave and I both have chosen to leave DePaul. We both learned a ton in our time away. Dave did co-champion an ACC regular-season championship at Virginia which is very difficult to do outside North Carolina and Duke. Returning to DePaul and having a total understanding of what DePaul is and what DePaul stands for will make Dave Leitao’s second DePaul run even stronger than his first.”
In nine career seasons as a collegiate head coach, Leitao holds a record of 143-129. Of the nine seasons as a head coach, he has led teams to six postseason tournaments including advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament at both DePaul (2004) and Virginia (2007).
DePaul Names Dave Leitao as New Coach
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