When I took my connecting flight from Charlotte to Houston for this year's Final Four, there were a number of coaches on that plane. Plenty of coaches you'd know and recognize instantaneously. No one worked the bird harder that afternoon than Dave Leitao, though. The former Virginia and DePaul coach only sat down for takeoff and landing -- no exaggeration. He hopped row to row, standing with his arms leaned against the overhead bins, making conversation and keeping inroads with plenty of coaches.
"That man is desperately trying to get himself a job," an assisant coach next to me said.
Well, Leitao's found one, but it's not in a place most would guess. The 51-year-old will take the gig that was once rumored to be an option for Bruce Pearl: coaching the Maine Red Claws in the NBDL.
Leitao was a much-praised assistant when he was at UConn, from 1996 to 2002. But he could never get his teams to have longterm success. His clubs at Northeastern, DePaul and Virginia combined to go 143-129. He was fired from Virginia after the 2008-09 season.
"He's one of the great guys of all time,'' said Carter Bernhardt, the director of marketing at Next Level. "You're getting a wonderful guy. He's a focused, wise individual.
"He just can't shake the coaching bug. He's wanted to get back into it.''
He'll replace Austin Ainge, who coached the Red Claws for their first two seasons before taking a position with the parent Boston Celtics.
The team will announce Leitao's hire officially at a 11 a.m. press conference Thursday. Leitao's never coached at the pro level before; the NBDL qualifies as that. Is he out of the college game for the long haul? We'll see. In terms of coaching futures, running an NBDL team could be a fork in the road.