By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Dave Leitao will return to DePaul as its next head coach, the school announced Sunday afternoon.READ MORE: Arwady On COVID Cases In Chicago: We Are Moving In The Wrong Direction, Lolla Attendees Should Take Precautions
In a stunning turn of events, athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto will bring back the coach who brought DePaul to its last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2003-04, then left for Virginia in 2005.
Leading candidates Bryce Drew and Bobby Hurley both gave DePaul serious thought — with Hurley even visiting Chicago on Saturday — but removed themselves from consideration. Leitao emerged very late as the Blue Demons’ choice.
Leitao, 54, has a career coaching record of 143-129, with stops at Northeastern, DePaul and Virginia. He was dismissed by Virginia in 2009, and his most recent head coaching role was the 2011-12 season with the NBA D-League’s Maine Red Claws. Leitao spent this season as an assistant with Tulsa.READ MORE: Aldermen Urge Passage Of 'Anjanette Young Ordinance' Seeking Sweeping Changes To CPD Search Warrant Procedures; 'We Have An Obligation To Change Policy'
The rehiring of Leitao is considered extremely surprising throughout basketball circles, as the original intent of DePaul was to find a young, rising name in coaching. When considering that DePaul hired a search firm to bring back its former coach, the decision is even more surprising.
Leitao replaces Oliver Purnell, who went 54-105 in five seasons with the Blue Demons. Purnell struggled to recruit in Chicago, failing in his first two years to connect with the city’s high school and AAU coaches, an essential piece of getting in with the top prospects. Leitao’s greatest challenge will be winning over Chicago’s top prospects, something which hasn’t been accomplished at DePaul since his first tenure as head coach from 2002-’05.
DePaul hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2004, Leitao’s second of three seasons as head coach. The program has a $250 million arena being built in the South Loop, with the hopes of being ready for the 2016-17 season.MORE NEWS: Nine More States Added To Chicago Travel Advisory
In a surprising move, it will be DePaul’s former coach leading the Blue Demons into their future.