Dave Leitao: Meet, Greet, and Beat

CHICAGO - The Art of War was written in 500 BC. The art of war comes to Lincoln Park in 2015. DePaul men’s basketball head coach Dave Leitao and his staff welcomed a near-capacity crowd at McGrath-Phillips Arena Thursday afternoon as part of DePaul University’s Meet and Greet that co-featured women’s head basketball coach Doug Bruno and his team.

Dave Leitao was 58-34 at DePaul when he first coached the team in 2002-2004, winning 44 games his final two years and leading the team to two NIT berths sandwiched around a NCAA berth, with that team advancing to the round of 32. DePaul was 9-19 in 2001.

And rebuilding is once again the main focus of Leitao and his assistant coaches Billy Garrett Sr., Rick Carter, and Patrick Sellers. And that effort starts by leading, with a staff that proved every bit as passionate about basketball and DePaul today, down to star point guard, Billy Garrett, Jr.

“I need to lead by example, leading in every aspect and in every situation, and reinforcing to [the team] what the coaches say,” said Garrett, Jr.

The main building block of this year’s team will be defense, something Leitao excelled in during his playing career at Northeastern in the early 1980’s, and with his coaching career. What he takes from The Art of War, his favorite book, and applies to his coaching is a general theory of preparation, knowing one’s team, and knowing one’s opponent.

Associated Head Coach Rick Carter spoke about what he learned from Tom Izzo at Michigan State, including an incident where a water container was kicked over at a MSU practice one time, with Izzo thereby enforcing a rule of no water at practice. But all humor aside, both Carter and Sellers spoke passionately about what it takes to win, mostly making players accountable. Carter said that while practices have been limited mostly to four-on-four and drills, the players are made accountable so when real games start, the players will have already gone through the toughest part. He said that there has not been enough practice time to single out anybody as having caught the coaching staff’s eyes.

Leitao is 143-129 as a collegiate coach. Nobody questions he and his staff have their work cut out in turning around the men’s program. But nobody should be fooled by Leitao’s soft spoken demeanor, evident today as he mixed with fans old and new, not afraid to reminisce about the old days while confronting the challenges of the present. To echo the preparation, accountability, and the defense Leitao’s teams are known for, a quote from his favorite book might sum up what lies ahead.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

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