Lebo named ECU head basketball coach
Posted March 22, 2010
GREENVILLE, N.C. – Jeff Lebo, who has 12 years of collegiate head coaching experience leading three programs to post-season or conference championship game appearances, has been named men's basketball head coach at East Carolina according to an announcement from director of athletics Terry Holland Monday.
Lebo, whose appointment is pending approval by the ECU Board of Trustees, will be introduced to the media at a 4:30 p.m. press conference Tuesday. He takes over the Pirate program after spending the last six seasons at Auburn.
Lebo has averaged nearly 18 wins per season during his head coaching career, compiling an all-time record of 211-156 (.575). He has been asked to rebuild three programs during that span and responded by leading each program to at least one 20-win season before departing. He has guided two teams into National Invitation Tournament (NIT) play, winning five of seven contests - falling on both occasions to teams which advanced to the NIT Championship Game.
Lebo, 43, will become East Carolina’s 23rd head men’s basketball coach in the school’s all-time history and directly succeed Mack McCarthy, who recorded a 34-56 mark in three years heading the Pirates’ program.
“Jeff Lebo has established a well-deserved reputation as a 'program turner,’” Holland said. “He has a proven track record as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach. When you combine those attributes with his desire for his family to be located in eastern North Carolina, it gives me great comfort that we have the opportunity to establish something very special for our basketball program over the next few decades under Jeff's leadership.”
In six years as a collegiate head coach prior to his appointment at Auburn, Lebo turned around programs at Tennessee-Chattanooga and Tennessee Tech en route to a 115-63 combined record at those institutions, an average of over 19 wins per season. A pair of Ohio Valley Conference titles and a trip to the NIT quarterfinals dotted Lebo’s ledger at TTU.
Lebo initiated his head coaching career at Tennessee Tech in 1998-99, when he took over a team with four consecutive losing seasons that was capped by a 9-21 campaign the year before his arrival. Two years later, the Golden Eagles posted their first 20-win season since 1946-47. He immediately followed with a school-record 27 victories a year later in 2001-02 that earned the school its first post-season appearance since 1963. TTU took advantage of its NIT opportunity, winning three-straight contests until dropping a 79-73 decision against eventual tourney champion Memphis on the road.
Lebo was honored with three consecutive OVC Coach-of-the-Year awards for his unprecedented success at Tennessee Tech. In addition, he was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 7 Coach-of-the-Year and the Tennessee Coach-of-the-Year at the conclusion of the 2001-02 season.
He then accepted the head coaching position at Tennessee-Chattanooga, and during his first season, led the Mocs to a 21-9 mark - producing the program’s first 20-win season in six years. The Mocs followed by winning 19 games during 2003-04 and came within one game of the NCAA Tournament for a second-straight season after losing in the Southern Conference title game both years.
Chattanooga ranked among the nation’s top eight in scoring offense in each of Lebo’s two campaigns on the sideline, averaging over 81 points per game both seasons. The Mocs also stood sixth nationally in field goal percentage and assists per game during the 2003-04 season.
After the 2003-04 campaign, Lebo accepted the head coaching position at Auburn despite inheriting a program facing NCAA sanctions and became the fifth-winningest coach in 104-year history of Tiger basketball with a 96-93 record during his tenure at the Southeastern Conference member school.
Of the five scholarship players during his first season at Auburn, four were guards that resulted in the Tigers’ distinction as one of the smallest Division I teams in the country. Despite the obstacles, Lebo posted his first winning season just two years later and laid the groundwork for a 24-victory campaign in 2008-09 – tying for the second-highest win total in Auburn Basketball history.
Hal Baird, an ECU alumnus who was Auburn’s long-time successful baseball coach and interim athletics director when Lebo was hired, was impressed with how hard and smart Auburn teams played under Lebo’s leadership.
“He faced many obstacles when he arrived, which really allows his 24-win season and his overall winning record to serve as a testament to his remarkable achievements,” Baird said. “He always represented Auburn in a first-class manner with dignity and character, and I’m thrilled that Jeff Lebo will be the next head men's basketball coach at East Carolina.”
Lebo began his coaching career as an assistant at East Tennessee State under Alan LeForce for two seasons from 1990 to 1992. The Buccaneers made two-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, advancing to the second round in 1992 after the 14th-seeded Bucs upset third-seeded Arizona. ETSU, which was finally eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by eventual national runner-up Michigan, 102-90, went 24-7 and won both the 1992 Southern Conference regular season and tournament championships. The Bucs went 28-5 in 1990-91 and won both the Southern Conference regular season and tournament titles before losing to Iowa in the NCAA Tournament.
Lebo joined Eddie Fogler’s staff as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt in 1992-93. During his only season in Nashville, Lebo helped coach the Commodores to an SEC Championship, a Sweet 16 appearance and a 28-6 record.
He then followed Fogler to South Carolina the following year, where he spent five seasons and played a key role assisting the Gamecocks to their only SEC title in 1997 and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. In his final three seasons in Columbia, Lebo helped the Gamecocks to an average of 22 wins per year, posting records of 19-12, 24-8 and 23-8.
A four-year letterman at North Carolina, Lebo played for legendary coach Dean Smith and was part of a Tar Heel program that posted a 116-25 record during his career, captured a pair of ACC regular season titles and clinched the 1989 ACC Tournament title. UNC advanced to the Sweet 16 each of his four years and made two Elite Eight appearances. He was a three-time All-ACC Tournament selection and a second-team all-conference pick in 1988.
Upon graduation in 1989, Lebo was honored with the prestigious Patterson Award as the school’s top student-athlete. On the floor, he currently ranks eighth on the school’s career assists list and 24th on its career scoring chart.
He was a high school All-America selection at Carlisle (Pa.) High School, where he was a four-year starter for his father, Dave, and contributed to a 108-9 prep record.
Lebo is married to the former Melissa Mills of Williamston, N.C. and they are the parents of daughters Addison and Mills, along with son Creighton. Lebo’s father-in-law, former ECU football letterman ‘Dink' Mills, served Williamston High School as its long-time football coach and athletics director.