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Experienced Bunch Will Assist Leitao

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff



July 20, 2005

CHARLOTTESVILLE - In the weeks before new Virginia basketball coach Dave Leitao announced the final additions to his staff, there was speculation that the Cavaliers might have the first all-black staff in ACC history.

Following the distribution of a news release on the hiring of Steve Seymour and Drew Diener, most of the talk was about Leitao's success in hiring a second former Division I head coach.

Seymour and director of basketball operations Diener are both white, but what stood out about the Seymour hire was the wealth of experience he brings to a staff that also includes former top DePaul aide Gene Cross and ex-Siena head coach Rob Lanier.

Seymour, who at 46 is one year older than Leitao, was an assistant at Drexel for eight years when it was 134-47 under Bill Herrion. When Herrion left to become the head coach at East Carolina, Seymour served as the Dragons' head coach from 1999-2001 and compiled a two-year record of 28-29.

Seymour said he is "close to the whole (Herrion) family," including younger brother Tommy, a charter member of Pete Gillen's UVa coaching staff and now the head coach at College of Charleston. More recently, Seymour was an assistant under Lanier at Siena for three years, before spending the 2004-2005 season at LaSalle.

Seymour arrives at Virginia with a reputation for developing big men. He won't lack for pupils in Charlottesville, where the returning frontcourt players include 6-10 Tunji Soroye, 6-10 Jason Cain and 6-8 Donte Minter. Newcomers Sam Warren (6-10) and Laurynas Mikalauskas (6-8) add to the mix.

With Leitao trying to make his presence felt early in the recruiting process, it is unlikely that Seymour will be spending considerable time on the road, even at those times of year when schools can have three coaches on the road, but he expects to be involved in recruiting - in some fashion - on a daily basis.

GROH AGAIN TAKING EARLY PLEDGES

When Virginia received a football commitment from Port Chester, N.Y., defensive lineman Nate Collins on July 8, it marked the Cavaliers' eighth pledge since June 12 and answered any questions about a possible change in coach Al Groh's recruiting strategy.

Apparently, there hasn't been one.

Virginia had more commitments at an earlier date in 2004, but the approach remains the same. The Cavaliers' desire to conduct early evaluations again left them with a larger haul than most schools at mid-summer.

The biggest disappointment came July 6, when quarterback Pat Devlin from Exton, Pa., made a commitment to Miami. UVa was the runner-up for Devlin, whose quarterbacks coach at Downington East High School, Dan Ellis, played for the Cavaliers during the early 2000s.

"I really loved the school, and I had a great relationship with (quarterbacks coach Mike Groh)," Devlin told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It was a tough decision."

Virginia will have at least six scholarship quarterbacks in its system next year, five of them underclassmen, but they don't have a quarterback who looks like 6-6 Matt Schaub, the 2002 ACC player of the year, who was recruited by the staff of Groh's predecessor, George Welsh.

Although returning starter Marques Hagans will be in his fifth and final season this fall, nobody expected Devlin or any other true freshman to take over in 2006. Depending on developments with Hagans, the Cavaliers may have their quarterback of the future in 5-10 Vic Hall, who accounted for nearly 14,000 yards in total offense and ended his prep career with back-to-back state championships and 28 consecutive victories.

At least one marquee high school wide receiver, Vidal Hazelton, has questioned whether UVa will have a receiver-friendly offense if Hall is at the controls. That's a perception the Cavaliers have been fighting for several years, and it could have been alleviated with a commitment from Devlin.

Of the first nine players to commit to Virginia, only one, Statesville, N.C., wideout Chris Dalton, qualified as a skill player. Six of the recruits were from the Northeast corridor of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

UVa also added a late recruit for 2005 in Ryan Weigand, a Pasadena, Calif., resident who had been rated the No. 1 junior college punter in the nation before he elected to pass up his senior year at Pasadena (Calif.) City College. Chris Gould, a scholarship kicker, served as the Cavaliers' punter for the final four games of the 2004 season but is seen as the eventual successor to placekicker Connor Hughes, who will be a senior this year.

FUTURE SCHEDULES REFLECT HOLLAND

Somewhat lost in the talk about an eight-game football series between East Carolina and Virginia Tech was a two-game series between the Pirates and Cavaliers. Both deals were negotiated by ex-UVa athletic director Terry Holland, now at ECU.

Holland's fingerprints are all over upcoming Virginia schedules, including a two-year home-and-home series with Wyoming, scheduled when one-time UVa assistant coach Lee Moon was the Cowboys' athletic director. Moon is now an assistant AD at Alabama-Birmingham.

The Cavaliers' non-conference football opponents in 2006 will be Western Michigan and Wyoming in Charlottesville, and East Carolina and Pittsburgh on the road. UVa also will play a 2007 game at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in exchange for four games with Mid-American Conference foes.

STRUGGLING SPRING COACHES "RETIRE"

If there was any question whether Virginia was serious about the Directors Cup prior to the Cavaliers' 13th-place finish this year, there was no doubt after the "retirement" of two of Virginia's least successful spring coaches.

UVa failed to score Directors Cup points in only three of 11 spring sports, including two in which the Cavaliers will have new coaches, softball and women's tennis. The other was men's track and field.

In both women's sports, Virginia thinks it can be successful, especially women's tennis, given the success of the men's tennis program since Brian Boland's arrival as head coach. Among UVa's head coaches, only men's and women's swimming and diving coach Mark Bernardino had been on the job longer than departing women's tennis coach Phil Rogers. But while Bernardino has won 14 ACC titles (in all fairness, he has the opportunity to win two each year), women's tennis hasn't won any.

The UVa softball team won a championship under coach Peggy Kellers in 1994 but hopes to reach new heights following the controversial hiring of Karen Johns, previously the head coach at Florida.

Johns was not retained by Florida after going 2-10 in postseason games over the past three seasons, but she might have been ready for a new beginning anyway. Former Gators catcher Andrea Zimbardi claimed that Johns had violated her rights in a grievance filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 2004. The grievance was settled after Florida agreed to have its coaches participate in diversity training.

The story of Johns' move to Virginia received ample play on a gay and lesbian website, outsports.com, which used the headline "Virginia Hires Allegedly Homophobic Softball Coach," but the controversy died down quickly as it became apparent that UVa assistant athletic director Jane Miller, who conducted the search, had used due diligence.