Gillen to receive $2 million buyout

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Pete Gillen stepped down as Virginia's basketball coach Monday, ending a seven-year tenure marked by just one trip to the NCAA Tournament.

"The team did not reach the goals we thought were achievable entering the 2004-05 season," athletic director Craig Littlepage said during brief remarks to the media at University Hall. "There is, however, a solid foundation in place provided by Pete and his staff."

Littlepage, who did not take questions, said he and Gillen had a discussion recently in which they decided the time was right for Gillen to leave.

The university said in a statement that under the terms of Gillen's contract he will receive a buyout of approximately $2 million. Gillen had six years remaining on a 10-year, $9 million contract he signed after the 2000-01 season.

"I have said many times the University of Virginia is a special place and I still feel that way," Gillen said in a statement distributed by the school. "I appreciate the opportunity given to me as the head coach and feel it is in the best interest of all that I step aside at this time."

Gillen, 57, did not attend the briefing or return a phone message left at his office by The Associated Press. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he was not sure if he would coach in 2005-06. He's been mentioned as a candidate to take over as the coach at Siena.

"I'm going to take some time off," he told the newspaper. "I love coaching, but my health isn't great right now. I'm a little beat up."

The Cavaliers' only trip to the NCAA Tournament under Gillen came in 2000-01. That season and his success with an undermanned team his first two years prompted the long-term deal.

But Gillen's future at Virginia has been tenuous for the past two seasons as the Cavaliers faltered in Atlantic Coast Conference play. This season they finished 14-15 overall and 4-12 in the expanded ACC, becoming the first team to be seeded 11th in the conference tournament.

After beating sixth-seeded Miami 66-65 in the first round, the Cavaliers lost 76-64 to eventual champion Duke in the quarterfinals.

Littlepage repeatedly said expectations for this season were high and that a $130 million, 15,000-seat arena due to open in 2006 mandated a turnaround in the men's program.

Gillen's arrival in Charlottesville seemed a logical next step after he made his mark at Xavier and then Providence, leading his teams to eight NCAA tournaments and three NITs in 13 years. He had a career record of 274-128.

At Virginia, however, his record was 118-93. The Cavaliers made four trips to the NIT, never getting past the second round, and were just 2-7 in the ACC tournament.

Littlepage is expected to take some time before hiring a new coach. He's required to attend the NCAA Tournament as a member of the selection committee and is expected to pursue a big name as the next coach to spark a surge in donations for the John Paul Jones Arena.

Among the names prominently mentioned are Texas coach Rick Barnes, who once agreed to leave Providence for the Virginia job but later changed his mind, Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Notre Dame's Mike Brey.