When DePaul assistant Rick Carter visited the campus of the University of Missouri for a potential assistant head-coaching role in 2011, he wanted to impress Dave Leitao. Leitao, an assistant at the time, was the only member of the Tigers’ coaching staff that Carter hadn’t been able to impress during the first day of his visit.
So as a gesture, Carter invited Leitao out to breakfast the following morning. Leitao agreed.
“He said ‘yeah, that would be great. I’ll pick you up at 6 a.m.,” Carter said. “I thought this was going to be terrible. But he picked me up and we had breakfast at Panera. From that point on, I realized what a great person he was. He knew what he was looking for in people, and I realized that I wanted to be around that guy.”
Leitao had impressed Carter with his ability to listen and personality. It was that personality that was on full display Thursday at McGrath-Phillips Arena as DePaul Athletics hosted a fan forum for Leitao and his new coaching staff to introduce them to the DePaul community once again.
Leitao, who previously served as DePaul’s head coach from 2002 to 2004, was asked questions by Fox 32’s Lou Canellis and fans at the event as well. Leitao and his staff did their best to drum up interest for what they hope is a new DePaul era.
“There’s something called the business of basketball, and what I always say, is DePaul is a business of people,” Leitao said. “Being back and being part of that, and missing it, it’s created a bunch of emotions for me. As a result, I couldn’t be more excited. It’s surreal.”
The event featured three different Q&A forums with women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno, assistants Patrick Sellers, Billy Garrett Sr. and Carter, and Leitao for last.
It was clear that the men’s team tried to stress that next year’s team would emphasize defense and effort. In a more comedic moment, walk-on freshman David Molinari asked the assistants if they had ever heard of a drink called water.
Carter, however, said the reason for pushing his new players in workouts is to see their resolve. Carter and Sellers were both responsible for scouting DePaul as assistants at Xavier and Creighton respectively, and wanted to challenge preconceived notions they had about the players.
“We’ve put them in very adverse situations the last three weeks as far as workouts go,” Carter said. “We got as them tired as humanly possibly. We wanted them to fight their fatigue as group and a unit to care about one another.
“They’ve risen to that challenge, and have been really, really good. It’s been refreshing to see the kids do that, especially considering the lack of success they’ve had in the last couple of years.”
Leitao, who is the last DePaul coach to bring the Blue Demons to the NCAA tournament, said he has been “extremely impressed” with what he’s seen in workouts.
“What we’ve tried to instill in them week-by-week is that, first and foremost, we’re going to talk defense all the time,” Leitao said. “Then we’re going to redirect ourselves to understand the value of hard work. From that point, we need to understand how important it is for your teammates to have success.”