By this point, there is no mistaking the rebuilding nature of Virginia’s season. The term “rebuilding” always forces observers to look toward the future. Within that analysis, questions arise about whether Coach Dave Leitao is the right coach to see the rebuilding through. Just two years after winning ACC Coach of the Year, Leitao was asked to defend the direction of his program. Here was his verbatim response:
“This is a very bad year to be where we’re at. This league is much better than at any point in time when I’ve been here. There are three teams that have already been number one. Nobody’s talking about Clemson and they’re very, very good, and we’ve yet to play and got to play them twice. It goes down the line. Florida State, for the first time since I’ve been here and maybe the first time since Leonard’s [Hamilton] been there will be in the tournament. Miami is not Miami that I got. So this league is very, very good at a time when we’re very, very young. And I don’t use that as an excuse. It’s just a fact.
“I think – and I’ve said this publicly – when you take over a program, usually you clean out a roster in a span of two years. You get your people in, you let them grow, and somewhere you re-fortify your chance of success. You saw that at Miami. You see that at different places. I told people Wake Forest – and I love their team, they got two or three versatile players – but in my three and a half years here, this is the first time they’ve been critical. It’s a league with ebbs and flows with programs. Unless you’re Duke and can maintain yourself and get at the top – and Carolina – and stay at the top.
“So what we did when we first got there was we rode the people that were there. Because one, they were very good people, and two, I thought they were good players. We got two of the top five or 10 players in the league, and they helped us win a lot of games, and they helped us win an ACC championship, which a lot of teams in this league can’t say. The downside of that is at some point they leave and you got to start. It stunted the growth of the guys that are older right now that we’re asking to do things for the first time. Leadership, command, those type of things. We’re asking young people – three of which are freshman that start – to come into an environment like this – or any environment – to perform like you’ve been around the block a few times.
“So I understand that growing pains come. And I don’t look it at programmatically other than we got a job to do. And we got to grow and through improvement, team-wise and individually, through recruiting, through all those things to get you to the place that you need to be. It’s happened with all people I just mentioned. It happened already for us. And now it’s going to happen again.”
February 2, 2009; 9:14 AM ET
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