PORTLAND – Dave Leitao, who has been the basketball coach at three NCAA Division I colleges, is expected to be named the next coach of the Maine Red Claws at a news conference this morning.

Leitao, 51, who had a 143-129 record at Northeastern University, DePaul and Virginia, will replace Austin Ainge, who coached the Red Claws for their first two seasons before joining the parent Boston Celtics as director of player personnel.

The Red Claws had no comment on Leitao’s hiring. They will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. today at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine on Cumberland Avenue to make the announcement.

The hiring was confirmed by a couple of sources, including a friend of Leitao’s in Virginia.

Leitao hasn’t coached since the 2008-09 season, when he resigned from the University of Virginia after a 10-18 season. Since then, he has worked as a consultant for the Next Level Talent Management Agency, a sports and entertainment management firm in Virginia Beach, Va. He was the lead consultant for the firm’s basketball division.

Carter Bernhardt, the director of marketing and business development for Next Level and a close friend, said Leitao was traveling to Portland on Tuesday.

“He’s one of the great guys of all time,” Bernhardt said. “You’re getting a wonderful guy. He’s a focused, wise individual. He can’t shake the coaching bug. He’s wanted to get back into it.”

This will be Leitao’s first professional coaching job. The Red Claws play in the NBA Development League, a professional minor league.

As a college coach, Leitao was considered an exceptional defensive coach and an excellent teacher — two traits that Jon Jennings, president and general manager of the Red Claws, was looking for in his new coach.

Leitao also was known as an emotional coach on the sidelines, constantly pushing his players to perform.

As a collegian, the 6-foot-7 forward played for coach Jim Calhoun at Northeastern, averaging 6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for his career. After graduating, he joined Calhoun’s staff as an assistant, then followed Calhoun to join his staff at the University of Connecticut in 1986.

Leitao became Northeastern’s head coach in 1994, compiling a 22-35 record over two seasons. He returned to Connecticut as an assistant and was part of the Huskies’ 1999 national championship team.

Leitao later became the head coach at DePaul University in Chicago, where he went 58-34 in three seasons, leading the Blue Demons to two NIT tournaments and one NCAA tournament.

Leitao, a native of New Bedford, Mass., became head coach at the University of Virginia in 2005. In joining the Cavaliers, he became the school’s first black head coach in any sport.

The Cavaliers went 63-60 in his time as coach. Their best season was 2006-07, when they went 21-11 and Leitao was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year.

He also has served as president of the Black Coaches Association of America.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]