Dave Leitao’s ouster as Virginia’s coach on Monday caught a lot of people off guard because it doesn’t seem to make sense to pay $2.1 million to buy out a coach in such a difficult economy.
But Leitao’s departure serves as a warning to other coaches with long-term contracts who think their buyouts will save them.
Athletics directors are just as eager to preserve their revenue streams as they are to cut costs. In this case, there wasn’t much confidence that Leitao could generate excitement next season in Virginia’s gorgeous and almost-brand-new arena.
Aside from guard Sylven Landesberg, Leitao’s Cavaliers were almost devoid of ACC-level talent. Leitao’s rotation was so unpredictable that his players’ confidence seemed shattered. And let’s face it, his gruff personality didn’t win him many supporters.
So two years after being named ACC coach of the year, Leitao is being paid not to coach. Funny how these things turn out.
Here’s a list of four current Division I head coaches that Virginia should consider:
1. Jeff Capel, Oklahoma. This would be the dream candidate. The former Duke player knows the ACC well and has done a great job overcoming NCAA sanctions to make Oklahoma a top-10 team. But it might be difficult to get him. It’s a lot easier to win at Oklahoma than it is at Virginia.
2. Bob McKillop, Davidson. If McKillop were ever to leave Davidson, it would have to be for a job at a highly principled academic institution like Virginia. But again, it wouldn’t be easy to convince him to leave, even for an ACC job. Davidson is a wonderful place to coach and live.
3. Anthony Grant, Virginia Commonwealth. Former Florida assistant has Virginia Commonwealth back in the NCAA Tournament and poised for a possible upset of UCLA. He isn’t a proven head coach at the BCS conference level, but he’s a rising star like VCU predecessor Capel was a few years ago.
4. Duggar Baucom, VMI. This is a wild card choice. It is a huge leap from the Big South to the ACC. But Baucom somehow found a way to turn a law enforcement career in Charlotte into a Division I head coaching job. He runs the fastest-paced offense in the nation and coached VMI to a win at Kentucky, for goodness’ sake. Just interview him, Craig Littlepage. You will love him.