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Lebo handed the reigns

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Jeff Lebo is returning to North Carolina, this time as the frontman of the East Carolina basketball program.

The former UNC-Chapel Hill guard was chosen by athletics director Terry Holland to succeed Mack McCarthy as the Pirates’ coach. He arrives in Greenville with a 211-156 career record and 12 years of head coaching experience.

Lebo was among several candidates involved in the search, a process that also included current Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, Wright State head coach Brad Brownell, ECU assistant Michael Perry, and former UNC-Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz.

Lebo interviewed for the position last Thursday, and it didn’t take long for Holland to extend an offer.

“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.”

Lebo’s familiarity with North Carolina, and even more specifically Eastern North Carolina, was a major draw for Holland. Lebo’s wife has strong family ties to the area, which could make him less likely to bolt should other programs target him.

But even more appealing was Lebo’s track record as a head coach, especially at Tennessee Tech. When he arrived at Tech, the Golden Eagles were fresh off of three losing seasons in four years and hadn’t won 20 games since the 1946-47 campaign.

Lebo proceeded to turn Tech around as the overall record improved each year he was there. In four seasons he was named the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year three times, and the Golden Eagles claimed the regular season championship in each of his last two campaigns.

That was punctuated by the 2001-02 season when the Golden Eagles finished 27-7 and earned an NIT berth. He left the following season for Chattanooga, where he spent two years and averaged 20 wins per season.

Lebo comes to Greenville after serving the past six seasons as the Auburn head coach. His tenure there wasn’t as successful as his previous two schools, though the Tigers did win 24 games and make it to the NIT quarterfinals following the 2008-09 season.

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03/23/2010 03:29 AM

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