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Virginia’s First African American Coach Ever
VIRGINIA.—On Sunday when Virginia introduced Dave Leitao as it’s new men’s basketball coach, it made history in a significant way – a way that had nothing to do with Xs and Os or 2-2-1 pressure defenses.
Leitao became the first African-American head coach in any sport in the University of Virginia’s history. The new athletics director to which he’ll report, Craig Littlepage, is the first African-American athletics director in ACC history.
During his introductory press conference Sunday, Leitao was asked what he felt was the significance of his selection.
“It’s a great honor. It’s a great honor this university has bestowed upon me. I’m extremely proud to coach the game of basketball as an African-American, especially with those that came before and did not have those opportunities,” Leitao said. “At this time, at this university, and for our future, I carry that as not only an honor but a responsibility. At the same time, I’m a basketball coach. For those who look at me as such, they’ll see the same thing as if my skin color was anything else. I’m honored and it’s a responsibility but at the same time, my job here is to coach basketball.”
The same question was put to Littlepage, who admirably has never made a point to emphasize the significance of his own hiring and position, and he responded succinctly.
“My goal was to hire the best coach. Pure and simply,” Littlepage said.
In an e-mail to The Daily Progress on Saturday, UVa President John T. Casteen III said “my answer is that it’s about time” in response to a question regarding the significance of Leitao’s hiring.
During his tour of the Grounds on Thursday, Dave and Joyce Leitao spent several minutes with Dean M. Rick Turner of the school’s Office of African-American Affairs.
Turner was impressed in the meeting and lauded what he viewed as a historical moment for the University of Virginia.
“I was extremely impressed with Dave and Joyce Leitao. He brings a special brand of leadership and intelligence to our community. This is indeed a historical moment in the life of the University of Virginia,” Turner said. “The Leitaos will be a welcome addition to the UVa family and particularly to the African-American community. I’m hopeful that his presence will enhance the recruitment of Black student athletes, non-athletes, faculty and administrators. Most importantly, I honestly feel that his presence will have a positive impact on the relationship between the African-Americans community and the University.”
Leitao will be one of six African-American head coaches next season in the ACC, a league that first integrated of its players in the late 1960s.