Hockaday was dismissed after just six games in charge of the Championship side.
The final straw for Cellino came with an embarrassing League Cup defeat by Bradford on Wednesday night.
The Italian had initially decided to sack Hockaday following the 4-1 league defeat at Watford on Saturday, only to perform a dramatic U-turn.
Hockaday, 56, leave with a record of three defeats in four league games.
“I felt sorry for him and had to give him some tranquillity,” Cellino told me.
“After the game on Wednesday, I found him in real trouble, it was getting too much for him.
“It was hell for him. He was under big, big pressure. I had to do something.”
Cellino denied he had made a mistake in appointing the 56-year-old back in June though.
The decision to choose Hockaday to succeed Brian McDermott as Leeds boss was met with widespread derision among the Leeds faithful.
The 56-year-old had only one previous managerial job on his CV – and that had ended in the sack at non-league Forest Green following a run of seven defeats in eight games.
“I think he has good qualities,” Cellino added.
“I found he had skills, loyalty and a desire to work hard.
“He is a very nice man – probably too nice.
“In the future, when I have a stronger team, I would like him to come back to Leeds.
“He is the perfect coach for a club that is strong.
Cellino had a reputation as a ruthless owner who got through lots of coaches during his time as owner of Italian side Cagliari.
Yet he admitted he felt sympathy and possible even guilt because of Hockaday's plight.
“I don’t think it was a fair chance for Hockaday,” the 58-year-old said.
“He needed an environment that was ready to protect him.
“I told him a couple of days ago ‘it’s not your fault’.
“The club doesn’t have a physical trainer or a goalkeeping coach.
“The team isn’t strong enough. The whole culture isn’t right.
“It’s easier to coach Real Madrid than Leeds at the moment.
“Hockaday needed time, but there was a game Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, and he never had that time.
“He agreed with my decision and it was like a weight had been lifted from him.”
Academy boss Neil Redfearn will now take caretaker charge of the side against Bolton tomorrow and Cellino believes things will start to improve.
“Neil Redfearn knows the boys and he is going to protect that team on Saturday," he said.
“We will have good new players coming.”
Cellino insisted he did not have a replacement lined up.
“If I said I had someone lined up, I would be lying,” he said.