East Carolina athletic director Jeff Compher may or may not be the kind of guy that makes a lot of New Year’s resolutions this time each year.
But just in case he is, here’s a suggestion: Be it resolved that 2017 will be the year in which the school’s athletic administration decides exactly how serious it wants to be about having a competitive men’s basketball program.
To be fair, Compher has already taken several major steps in an effort to improve the Pirates’ hardwood fortunes. He’s overseen the construction of a new $17 million state-of-the-art practice facility and another $4 million expenditure for upgrades to Minges Coliseum. Just last spring, he gave coach Jeff Lebo the green light to do whatever it takes to spread a wider recruiting net in search of better talent.
And yet, barring a dramatic turnaround between now and the end of the season, ECU appears headed for an all-too-familiar result.
Consider that in the six years Lebo has been in charge of the program, his Pirates have posted a winning conference record only once — a 9-7 mark in Conference USA in 2012-13. That was the season in which hot-shooting guard Akeem Richmond led ECU to 23 wins and the championship of the postseason College Insiders Tournament.
Since then, the Pirates have seen their win totals decrease every year, from 17 in 2014 to 14 in ‘15 and just 12 a season ago.
Though this year’s team has already posted nine victories in its first 16 games, it has won only twice since Dec. 3 — once against a team that has already fired its coach. On three occasions during that slump, it has failed to score more than 45 points.
That’s not the kind of performance that will aid ECU’s chances should the Big 12 or any other Power 5 conference begin vetting potential expansion candidates again. It’s certainly not the kind of record that instills confidence in an athletic director, especially one who just a year ago dispatched a popular football coach after one losing season.
Upon announcing the dismissal of Ruffin McNeill last December, Compher publicly stated the expectation that ECU’s programs compete for championships. At this point in the process, the Pirates’ basketball team is about as far away from competing for championships as Greenville is from Greenland.
That’s significant considering that in announcing Lebo’s return after last season, Compher was quoted as saying that “you want to see progress and you certainly don’t want to feel like you’re going in the other way.”
It should be noted that Ws and Ls aren’t the only factor in determining progress. The problem is that even with a roster that includes four true freshmen, a redshirt freshman, a junior college transfer and a fifth-year graduate transfer all in their first year in the program, it sure feels as though ECU is “going in the other way.”
You can only bang your head against a wall so many times before it finally dawns on you that it hurts. That’s when you stop.
So when does Compher finally acknowledge that the Pirates’ status quo isn’t working and decides to try something different?
It could happen as soon as the end of this season. Or maybe not.
There’s a real chance that Compher will give Lebo at least one more year to try and develop talented freshmen Jeremy Sheppard, Elijah Hughes, Raquan Wilkins and Shawn Williams — who is currently redshirting for academic reasons — and avoid paying him not to coach through the end of his contract in 2021.
Either way, the time is rapidly approaching for ECU to decide whether it’s really serious about having a competitive men’s basketball program or if it will continue to bang its head against a wall until it finally figures out how much it hurts.
this goon hasn’t developed a player since he’s been here. they routinely flatline or get worse.
Richard Edwards says
When we hired a “Carolina” man, I must admit that I was not thrilled. But I can truely say that I like the man. I believe in him. I still believe he is a good coach and with the right circumstances, he can be successful. I would give him a couple years. He deserves that. GGOOO….PPIRATES!!!
He’s had 7 years, enough is enough
A number of comments suggest that there is a better coach out there than Jeff Lebo. The real question is “Are we as Pirate loyals, willing to pony up the additional funds to buy a coach with successful head coaching experience”? To bring on an assistant coach is as risky as buying a pig in a poke. Coaching or managing all the pieces is significantly more challenging than executing the responsibilities of a specialist. If we, the Pirate loyals are as serious as we make out in our rhetoric, then open your wallet a lot wider. Otherwise, how do we get a top talent guy to want to play at ECU for a coach known a lot less than those with whom we compete (in the ACC) for talent? Lebo is probably one of the best coaches we have had. He is as successful at the highest level we have played as his predecessors were at a lower level. We have moved forward with Lebo. If you want to keep rolling that mega stone up the hill, we better keep pu$hing. If we ever get out from behind it, it rolls back and we will be crushed.
You want a better product, pay for it. We can’t drink Chateau Montelena on a Boone’s Farm budget.
Money is not the issue. Our recruiting budget runneth over and Lebo is among the wealthiest in Greenville.There are traditionally successful program all over USA that spend less or certainly no more than ECU.Lebo is maddeningly stuck in a middle gear.He was fired by Auburn for coaching just as he does today.
Anyone read how we stack up financially with the rest of the AAC? At the bottom! How we can beat a team as rich as NC State is absolutely incredible on our shoestring budget.
IKN Pirate is absolutely right!!!
I’m in with this team. This has got to be the best talent I’ve seen in my 30+ years of watching Pirate hoops. This is also the toughest schedule we have faced night-in, night-out ever. This may sound upsetting to some but give Lebo 5 years from this point. Let these players know he’s gonna be their coach, let the recruits know Jeff is here to stay and let the program build. The win-loss record really doesn’t reflect how much the talent level has improved. This team would most likely beat the 2013 CIT team. Go Pirates!
I mean come on, guys, 7-6 player fails to score against us?? How many teams and coaches have shut that guy out. Once the Pirates get this thing figured out we are going to run some people out of the gym.
They ran me out of the gym at halftime of the Charleston Southern game
Who was Charleston Southern playing?
Maybe if we weren’t blowing $500,000+ on an unneeded Womens lacrosse team there’d be more money for an experienced Coach. As it stands we’re paying Lebo about $1 million a year, I’m pretty sure we can find a successful Coach with that budget, seeing how we’re giving that to a coach that has never once, ever, taken a team to the ncaa tournament
David Pate says
c’mon guys, Lebo has been here for years and has produced only a single team back in 2013 that has really done well. Watching his players, they are all afraid to step into the paint and are rather clumbsy when and if they ever do. The ball mainly revolves outside of the 3 point area. . . I just don’t get his coaching style. when basketball season is over, you dont see him or hear from him. He adds nothing the the community and has no personality at all with which to recruit with, but then he is a Carolina boy. . . Not what we need here. Let him finish out his contact and then hire a high school coach, which I believe could motivate his players better the LEBO. . . Done.
kirk myers says
you ever consider that Compher is the problem. Football or basketball…..every coach has done worse each year. Compher is a buffoon.