Jeff Lebo Named New ECU Basketball Coach

ECU has officially named a new head coach for the the Pirate Men's Basketball team.

Jeff Lebo was introduced on the Greenville campus Tuesday afternoon.

The former Auburn coach entered the room at ECU to applause.

Lebo was introduced by Terry Holland, ECU athletics director.

Holland stepped to the podium and told the crowd they were about to meet a "classic gym rat," the son of a high school coach father, who learned the game from a player's perspective and from a coach's perspective.

"Great point guards always make the people around them better," Holland said. "Jeff Lebo, as a player and a coach, has made the people around him better."

Holland went on to list Lebo's accomplishments as a coach. Lebo has 12 years of collegiate head coaching experience.

The one thing that sealed the deal for me, Holland said, was something Lebo said to him... that Lebo's wife told him they had one move left, and they could go anywhere in the world as long as it was within 45 minutes of the Sunnyside Oyster Bar in Williamston.

Lebo's wife, Melissa, is from Williamston.

"I feel like the luckiest guy in the world right now," Lebo said, as he took the podium. "I feel so very fortunate."

Lebo said he gets to coach at a great university, do what he loves to do -- coach basketball and work with kids, and coach at a place with an incredible fan base.

Lebo also said he will be working for a man he respects, Coach Holland.

"I'm officially ready to be a Pirate," Lebo said, "Go Pirates!"

He said ECU is the perfect place for him. Lebo said when Holland offered him the job, he didn't even need to think for a second before giving his response.

Lebo has another tie to North Carolina. He played basketball under the legendary Dean Smith at North Carolina.

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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.

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  • by Sam Location: Kitty Hawk on Mar 26, 2010 at 07:26 AM
    As a diehard ECU fan, ECU alum, and a Williamston native who's family is family with Jeff Lebo's in-laws, I am stoked and happy to see Lebo come be our new head coach. Jeff is a real cool friendly guy, a class act, and eats breathes and sleeps basketball. His wife is also very nice. I sure think and hope that he will turn pirate basketball around where they improve a lot and start getting in the big dance. If he does really well, I would be really surprised to see where he would go elsewhere, considering ECU is the closest place to his wife's family in Williamston. With what I have heard from some UNC people, my respect for UNC has increased a bit, unlike in past times.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 26, 2010 at 05:51 AM
    If elephants could learn to fly then maybe ECU could learn to play basketball!
  • by Gary Location: Windsor on Mar 25, 2010 at 11:24 AM
    This could be a "special situation" like the one that Louis, Jr. referred to when he left. One set of grandparents 30 min. away and surely much closer to PA than when he was at Auburn. I remember when Melissa was born. Used to see her at WHS football games. Welcome Coach Lebo. May your stay be long and successful.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 24, 2010 at 03:57 PM
    I bet if the basketball were green, ECU would play a lot better and the turnovers would drop dramatically.
  • by Bozo on Mar 24, 2010 at 02:06 PM
    Why don't we get us a "Ping Pong" coach. We'd be better off. We're going to pay out a lot of money for nothing; after all, what quality basketball player wants to wear the ECU logo? Nobody~!~
  • by Joe Location: New Bern, NC on Mar 24, 2010 at 03:54 AM
    Watched Jeff Lebo in his senior year in HS lead Carlisle Sr. High School to the PA AAAA State Championship. Watched Jeff at UNC where his hussle, skill and Basketball knowledge were winners. Followed Jeff in his coaching career...where he has been a winner. Jeff is an excellent choice to coach the ECU Men's Basketball team. ECU has chosen a dedicated, hard working and knowledgeable coach with integrity!!! Jeff, welcome to ECU!
  • by Leigh Location: Martin County on Mar 23, 2010 at 07:58 PM
    You can lead a camel to water, but you can't make him drink. Did you ever consider that the players are at fault for playing poor basketball?!?!?! Or is it easier to blame the coach? Welcome, LEBO!!!!
  • by Dave Location: Far away from you on Mar 23, 2010 at 07:35 PM
    If Lebo can average 12 wins per season, he will be an instant success.
  • by T'boro Pirate Location: Tarboro on Mar 23, 2010 at 04:46 PM
    Welcome Coach Lebo! As an ECU alum, we've never had too much to cheer about basketball wise so I did follow the Tarheels and remember your talent and hustle while wearing the baby blue. Your coming here brings the best of both worlds and more importantly some hope. A former Tarheel that learned from Dean now turned Pirate! This has potential. Best of luck and I know that you'll will give it your all. Hopefully we will soon go to the Dean Dome and give them a respectful game. Good job Terry! AARRRRGGGG!
  • by PirateTilDeath Location: Raleigh on Mar 23, 2010 at 03:53 PM
    Welcome Coach Lebo! As a member of the pirate faithful, I will support you through thick and thin. Use the critics as motivation. Best of luck and I look forward to next season.

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