How has Leitao changed in a decade?

It’s been 10 years since DePaul coach Dave Leitao said goodbye to the Blue Demons and the City of Chicago. DePaul has changed a lot in those 10 years, but as Leitao returns to Lincoln Park, we wonder how has Leitao changed? We explore that question in this report.

Since Dave Leitao left the DePaul campus for the University of Virginia in the spring of 2005, much has changed. DePaul has left Conference USA for the Big East Conference. Then the Big East conference reformed itself into the league of 10 private colleges that we see today.

Leitao has been well-traveled during that span. He spent four years at Virginia. He coached for one year in the NBA Development League in Maine. More recently, he’s been an assistant coach at Missouri and Tulsa under coach Frank Haith.

When he was in Chicago before, Leitao had a reputation as a defensive coach, but now it appears that he’s become more well-rounded with the game of basketball.

“I think he’s more experienced offensively,” said DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto. “I think he’s learned more on the offensive side of the ball, and I think he’s gotten better defensively.”

Leitao has found that he’s had to change just as many of the players that he recruits and is responsible for coaching have changed.

“My approach has become a little different because my surroundings have changed a little bit,” said Leitao. “Young people have changed a little bit. My methodologies on motivation are a little different on how to get the best out of them. I need to make sure that I knew that and to practice that. When I went to the D-League four years ago, it was to make sure I could get back on the sidelines and see things differently. To see the game differently and to see young people differently. To not necessarily change, but to continue to evolve as a coach and as a person, so I could still be at the cutting edge of what success is supposed to be about in their world at the same time as I do it in my world.”

Leitao now has to relate to a generation that has grown up on social media. Social media outlets like Twitter didn’t exist 10 years ago.

“One of the things that makes you a really good coach is your relatability to the student-athletes,” Ponsetto said. “He was extremely good at that when he was here the first time. You know the world changes. It’s a different world than it was 10 years ago. We’ve got Twitter and Instagram. Everything is changing, so the kids have changed. The way that they educate themselves, and the way that they acclimate themselves to new things, new environments, and the way they learn is different. You have to stay cutting edge as a coach and as a teacher. I don’t mean just Dave. The gym is a classroom, if you’re a faculty member or a teacher anywhere, you have to really connect with kid’s learning styles. That’s one of the things I would venture to say that he’s probably a lot better at, than he was then. I think that just comes with experience and age. To me the best coaches that I’ve ever seen have been the ones that really drill down into kid’s learning styles. Once you know how they learn and you provide them with the proper repetition, those are the kids that create better teams. Because they end up having more confidence. They develop more confidence. The more confidence you have, the better chemistry you can build. I think that’s a strength of (women’s coach) Doug (Bruno’s). I think that’s why Coach Bruno has been so successful. You have to change with the generation of kids. You can’t think they are going to do what you do back in 2004 or 1964. What worked then, doesn’t work today. You have to change with the times. That’s one of the things that is one of Dave’s strengths.”

Leitao was an intense competitor on the basketball court, and from all accounts he still is today.

“I’ve watched him as a coach,” said Tulsa coach Frank Haith. “He was fierce and intense. I think he still burns with that intensity, but I think he’s mellowed over the years. That’s a good thing. In terms of how Dave has changed as a coach, I’ve seen him be more relaxed. Trust me, he’s the same fiery guy, but in a different way.”

“I would expect that his intensity in practice will be at a high level, at the same time though I think it’s tempered by the fact that times have changed, it’s a little bit different generation of kids, and they may not respond to the same way that you might manage them,” said Ponsetto.

Leitao also took away a few things from his years working for Haith at Missouri and Tulsa.

“He was a tremendous help for me and he was a great voice of reasoning,” said Haith. “As coaches, we evolve as our years pass us by. We learn and we grow and we develop and we get better. I’m sure he’s a much better coach than he was then.”

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