Leitao sends message to ‘Hoos
Story by Chris Graham
I often wonder when watching games why coaches whose teams are going through a lull don’t call timeouts to make their players run wind sprints or some such thing.
The thought there being – a little bit of motivation can go a long way from time to time.
UVa. basketball coach Dave Leitao and apparently have a similar frame of mind in that respect. Except that Leitao is willing to go a few steps beyond anything I could ever conjure up – considering that he took away both his players’ practice jerseys and their access to the team locker room at the John Paul Jones Arena in the wake of the Cavs’ 108-70 loss to Xavier on Jan. 3.
“I don’t know if I look at it in terms of it being a help. I think we’re just getting back to the basics – and anytime, not necessarily when you just lose a game, but when you operate in the manner in which we did, I think it is a time to get back to basics and understand just from the ground level why you’re here and what you’re doing and all those kind of things, and what it takes to be successful,” said Leitao, whose 10-3 ‘Hoos travel to Duke Sunday night for their ACC opener.
“Sometimes those things are taken for granted without anybody realizing it. So it was an opportunity for me to get back to basics that way – and one of them is to make them understand that most things in life, not just in basketball, are earned, and not given. And so all the privileges that any of us have, and particularly in this case, our team, are things that need to be earned as opposed to just given away,” Leitao said.
The 10-day break between the Xavier and Duke games might turn out to be a blessing. Leitao has used the time to do more, to borrow from what he said earlier, getting back to basics on the court.
“We’ve had an opportunity to get back in the gym and get down to basics,” Leitao said, invoking that phrase again. “Especially this time of year, I think teams are more in game-prep mode when they get in practices. We took some time to specifically prepare not for a game, but to just get better in certain areas. So we’ve spent the last few days trying to do that, in all areas that we feel can help us. And so we’ve obviously made a little bit of a push forward in those areas, but the proof will be in the pudding when we get back on the court.”
And what was he working on specifically?
“What the game against Xavier told us was we weren’t good in any area,” Leitao said. “I think our execution, especially in pressurized situations, hadn’t been what we needed it to be. Obviously our defense, giving up 108 points, and them shooting the ball so well, our defense was lacking, both full-court defense and halfcourt defense. So again, it gave us an opportunity to get back in the gym and focus on those things specifically to try to shore it up.”
For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t say to necessarily expect a win Sunday night, but I’d bet that you could expect a strong effort from the Virginia team.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.