You could see it coming this week as rumors swirled and swirled and swirled and Jay Jacobs did precisely nothing to quell them, but now it’s more-or-less official: Jeff Lebo has been fired as Auburn’s men’s head basketball coach. Money graf from Goldberg’s story:
Lebo replaced Cliff Ellis at Auburn before the 2004-05 season, but was hurt when several of Ellis’ top players left. His first Auburn team finished 14-17. That was followed by records of 12-16, 17-15, 14-16, 24-12 and 15-17.
That’s right: years 4 and 6–both teams with rosters entirely recruited by Lebo–both resulted in losing seasons. Sorry, but that’s not enough.
The official WBE shortlist:
1. Mike Anderson, Missouri. The first thing I’d do if I were Jacobs would be to find out whether Anderson would be at all interested in coming back to Alabama, then find out how much money it would take, then find the money.
2. Gregg Marshall, Wichita St. Built the most rugged mid-major dynasty this side of Butler at Winthrop, moved to Wichita, and has since taken the Shockers from 11 to 17 to 25 wins in his three years there. Still young enough after 14 years as a head coach to do some serious program-building at Auburn … if we can pry him away from WSU. Marshall turned down multiple offers at Winthrop and has spoken frequently about his reticence to move his family.
3. Billy Kennedy, Murray St. Kennedy has been a head coach at three schools–Centenary, Southeastern Louisiana, and now Murray St. He’s taken the last two to the dance and given all three their best seasons in decades. This year’s Racer team is the No. 1 biggest threat to pull an upset out of the 13-or-worse seed line in the NCAAs, bar none … and he’s also way more likely than the first two guys to come to Auburn.
Those are the first three to come to mind; I’d be thrilled with the first two, with Kennedy a solid fallback. Amongst the names I’ve heard thrown around are John Brady and Rick Majerus, neither one of which I’d be excited about; Majerus would immediately improve the team but would be liable to depart at any moment because of his health, and Brady would be the second coming of the Cliff Ellis yo-yo (though hopefully without the probation). Amongst mid-majors, I’m not as high as you might expect on either Butler’s Brad Stevens or Siena’s Fran McCaffrey; the former may be a product of the program (as Todd Lickliter appears to be at Iowa) and the latter’s both too old to provide the energy I’d like and maybe a little fortunate with his perfect storm of MAAC recruits. We’re looking for a sure thing, and those first two guys look like the closest things to me.
Much, much more to come on this over the next few days.
UPDATE: First official media speculation comes from Andy Katz via Andy Bitter: Anderson, Chuck Person, UTEP’s Tony Barbee, UAB’s Mike Davis. You can read my gut reaction to Person and Barbee in the comments, and as for Davis …. eh, wouldn’t be the worst hire in the world, but he’d hardly get my blood pumping, either.
And oh yeah, the school’s made it official with a boilerplate “different direction” quote from Jacobs.
We’re looking for a sure thing.
Yes, and all coaching searches are. Reality, especially in a moderately high-variance game like basketball, is often disappointing. If Kentucky fans have been dissatisfied with the last two sure things, and will disavow the last sure thing once he gets them in trouble, where does that leave the rest of us?
Good luck in your search. Hopefully the sorts of yokels who call up Finebaum to say, “I’m an Auburn fan, but who cares about basketball?” won’t win the day.
Blake, I saw him angling and maybe should have mentioned him, but great players rarely make good coaches and he’s been out of the college game for ages. He’d be a huge, huge gamble.
Phillip, it’s true that there isn’t really a sure thing … but I think some things are surer than others, and we want the surest thing we can get. (As for UK, Gillespie was a strange and unfortunate miss, but with Tubby Smith, they were the problem, not him.)
How bout Tony Barbee at UTEP??? He preaches defense, which has been sorely missing on The Plains. I’d be happy with Barbee, Marshall and Anderson, with the last the least likely to come.
Barbee would be OK, and there’s no doubting that what he’s done at UTEP is impressive, but
1. I’d prefer someone who’s proven themselves at multiple locations
2. He’s a longtime former Calipari assistant, and I don’t want any whiff of that scumbag’s stink in our new arena.
If Barbee can convince Jacobs he’s clean, I’ll be all right with him. But I think he’d be more of a roll of the dice than the three I’ve got listed. Then again, he’s WAY more likely to come to Auburn than the first two.
I think we have to get a coach who will stay. Most of these young coaches will move on to a better program if they get the chance. I’d love to see a good, older basketball coach with a smaller division one school that we might be able to outbid for and then keep.
Good luck to Coach Lebo and even better luck to our Seniors. You played hard, then just didn’t seem any method to the madness.
I’ve heard Person’s name a bit lately but seems it would be nice to have someone who had actually been a head coach and has shown the abiliity to recruit quality players. Also seems that if AU is willing to pay $1.5M for Lebo to move on, the school should also be willing to pay serious money to replace him with a proven coach.
One guy I wish we’d at least make the ask of is Steve Alford. Do you think we have any interest in him? I know he’d be tough to get out of his current situation but sure seems like money plus the new arena would help us.
Bravin, I think I said this in the other thread, but I don’t see any way we get Alford out of Albuquerque, and honestly I don’t see why he’d be interested in coming. The Lobos are the biggest game in town in Albuquerque–it’s not even close–and Alford is set for life there. UNM’s already renovated The Pit into a top-notch facility and they’d break the bank to keep him. UNM frankly offers him more in terms of both cash, stability, current program status … I don’t see why he’d even consider a move to Auburn.
For the vast majority of Auburn people, we don’t expect our basketball program to be in the Final Four every year, hell, we don’t expect to be in the Tournament every year. The big thing is give us some hope, get us into the big dance every now and then. Most importantly, don’t embarass the University. I know the B’ball purists will scream that is what is wrong with the program, it’s the honest truth.
Persons is a HUGE gamble, but if are going to hire him. I say we go ahead and do it. We need a Coach like Chizik, who WANTS to be at Auburn, who LOVES the place, and wants to retire here. I think we all would agree that Chiz sure looked like quite the gamble, but hell – I’m not sure his flat out love for Auburn isn’t what got us to a New Years Bowl and the recruiting class we are waiting so patiently to watch.
Person’s is well respected and connected around the NBA. He’s been around Zin-Master Phil…you can’t tell me he doesn’t know what it takes to win…my God he works for the Lakers. Frankly, that’s as impressive to me as any of the other resumes out there.
Brad Stevens would have no interest in a job like this
You might be right, Ted. Really the only advantage Auburn has on Butler right now is the amount of money they can offer.
WoW, I would love to see Mike Anderson.. do you think if AU
has a shot?…
I would say go with Chuck P. if AU can’t get Mike…
He has national and regional recognition and does it really
matter if he can coach?…
Did not seem to matter for most of AU’s BB history…
When Lebo was hired, didn’t Anderson decline an interview? I heard some conjecture about Anderson wanting to be the only interview, and when he was informed there would be other interviews, he said no thanks. Again, pure conjecture. That being said, I’d love for him to come to Auburn. Mizzou plays an exciting brand of hoops. But why would Anderson come to Auburn being that it’s a lateral move at absolute best?
That being said, I’m all for bringing Sonny Smith back.