Resurrecting a program that had reached rock bottom when he took over in 2004-05, Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo and his 2008-09 Tigers recorded the second most wins in Auburn history by going 24-12 and tied for second overall in the SEC with a 10-6 record. The Tigers were one of the last teams left out of the NCAA Tournament and came within an eyelash of the NIT Final Four.
Auburn ended the season on a tear as it won eight of its last nine SEC regular season games and nine of 10 after defeating Florida in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Eight of Auburn's 11 SEC wins were by double digits.
The Tigers won 10 SEC regular season games for only the second time in 21 years and had a winning league record for only the eighth time in 39 years.
Auburn's 73-51 victory at Arkansas was the Razorbacks' worst loss in the 16-year Bud Walton Arena history while the Tigers' 76-58 win at Mississippi State tied its largest margin of victory in Starkville. The 71-59 win at Georgia was Auburn's largest in Athens since 1977.
Auburn came back from a 13-point deficit with 14 minutes to play to win at Alabama 77-73 and sweep the Crimson Tide for the second time in three years.
Lebo enters his sixth season at Auburn in 2009-10 with the program rolling in the right direction with a new $92 million arena opening the following season.
Without a single senior on the roster, he led Auburn to a 17-15 (7-9 SEC) record in 2006-07, the Tigers' first winning season since 2003. Auburn came within 40 seconds of winning the SEC Western Division title as it had the ball up by three points at Ole Miss in the regular season finale. In tying for third in the SEC West, Auburn and its seven SEC wins were also the most since winning eight in 2003.
Auburn swept Alabama for the first time since 1999, and the first time in history when Alabama was nationally-ranked both times. The win in Tuscaloosa was the Tigers' second in the last 23 years.
Auburn defeated teams that were ranked throughout the season in No. 12 Alabama, No. 22 Tennessee, No. 25 Alabama and ranked Vanderbilt and previously ranked LSU.
It also marked the first time in 12 seasons that Auburn defeated ranked teams two-straight times in its 83-80 upset over No. 22 Tennessee followed up with an 81-57 victory over No. 12 Alabama.
Lebo began his reclamation project at Auburn in leading the Tigers to an over-achieving 14-17 (4-12 SEC) record in 2004-05, his first season at Auburn in turning around a decimated Tiger program. Four starters and nine lettermen were lost from the 2003-04 Tigers that finished one spot out of the cellar in the 12-team SEC at 14-14 (5-11 SEC).
The Tigers, who were a consensus last-place pick in the SEC, tied for 10th in the league in 2004-05. They equalled the win total from the previous season with far less talent and had the shortest Div. I team in America with only one player taller than 6-foot-6.
In Lebo's first game as head coach at Auburn, the Tigers claimed a thrilling 80-78 upset on the road against Temple and legendary head coach John Chaney. A perfect 5-0 start was halted with a narrow 89-87 loss to 24th-ranked Virginia in Richmond.
Other highlights included a 51-point turnaround as Auburn avenged a 90-53 thrashing at No. 18 Mississippi State in the SEC opener for a 90-76 win over the defending SEC Champion Bulldogs in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum. The Tigers had a 49-point turnaround as they were annihilated at Arkansas 95-59, but defeated the Razorbacks 77-64 in Auburn on Senior Day.
Auburn advanced to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals as it upset a Vanderbilt team that was on the NCAA Tournament bubble in the first round. The Tigers avenged a 67-43 home loss to the Commodores three weeks prior. A 74-71 SEC road win at South Carolina was huge as the Gamecocks, who defeated No. 3 Kentucky the following game, were fighting for a NCAA Tournament bid.
In Lebo's second season, the Tigers went from the smallest team in Div. I to the youngest in 2005-06. Auburn, with only one senior in Ronny LeMelle on its roster, started four freshmen eight times. Purdue was the only other team to start a rookie quartet, and the Boilermakers only did it once. A consensus last place pick, Auburn went 12-16 (4-12 SEC) to tie for fifth in the SEC's Western Division. The Tigers defeated Temple, swept Ole Miss and nearly knocked off a pair of Final Four teams, losing to LSU 65-61 and at eventual National Champion Florida 69-57.
Losing its entire frontline in a pair of 6-foot-7 junior forwards in Josh Dollard for the whole season and Korvotney Barber from Dec. 29 on as well as 7-foot-1 freshman center Boubacar Sylla from Nov. 13 on in the 2007-08 season, the Tigers went 14-16 (4-12 SEC). Auburn players missed a combined 4733 minutes on the season.
The Tigers did sweep NIT finalist Ole Miss and defeated Alabama 88-76 on CBS. The Rebels were ranked 15th nationally when the Tigers beat them on Jan. 19.
Lebo was named the Tigers' 19th head basketball coach on April 8, 2004. In his 21 years as a Div. I head coach, assistant coach and player, Lebo has won wherever he has been. To his credit are nine conference championships ... two in six years as a head coach, four as an assistant coach and three as a player.
He has been a part of two Southeastern Conference Championships at different schools, three Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, two Ohio Valley Conference Championships and a pair of Southern Conference titles.
In six years as a collegiate head coach prior to Auburn, Lebo turned around two programs at Tennessee-Chattanooga and Tennessee Tech en route to a 115-63 career record, an average of 19.2 wins per season. A pair of Ohio Valley Conference Championships at Tennessee Tech and coming within one game of the NIT Final Four with Tech dot Lebo's ledger.
Lebo has accumulated a very impressive 168-112 record (.600) in his last nine seasons as a head coach ... an average of 18.7 victories a season. He was an assistant coach for eight years at South Carolina, Vanderbilt and East Tennessee State after playing the 1989-90 season with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.
As an All-ACC point guard and four-year starter at the University of North Carolina from 1986-89, Lebo helped lead the Tar Heels to a 116-25 record and four trips to the NCAA Tournament, two to the Elite 8 and a pair of Sweet 16 appearances. The Tar Heels won two ACC Regular Season Championships and one ACC Tournament Championship with Lebo, who was a two-time All-ACC Tournament selection and an All-ACC second-team pick in 1988.
In high school, Lebo led Carlisle (Pa.) High to a 108-9 record in his four-year career, culminating with the 1985 Pennsylvania State Class 4A Championship as a senior. He earned All-America honors and was a four-time all-state selection.
His father, Dave, who has been an assistant under his son during his entire tenure as a head coach, was the head coach at Carlisle where the school honored him by naming the court after him in a ceremony Dec. 3, 2005.
When Lebo was named head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga in April 2002, he inherited a team without a returning starter and without a signee for the upcoming season.
He transformed the Mocs into a Southern Conference championship contender in just one season, leading UTC to a 21-9 record in 2002-03, the school's first 20-win season in six years.
The Mocs gave Lebo a 17-point victory over Furman in his SoCon debut and defeated NCAA Tournament participant Weber State 75-63 in the Dr. Pepper Classic title game. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment was the school's first two-game series sweep over the College of Charleston. Lebo led the Mocs to a 19-11 mark in 2003-04 and came within one game of the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season, losing to East Tennessee State in the championship game each year. He earned his 100th-coaching victory in a 93-86 win at Tennessee State Dec. 1, 2003, in only his 153rd game as a head coach.
Lebo became one of the youngest collegiate head coaches in the nation when he began his coaching career in 1998-99 at Tennessee Tech, inheriting a program that went a woeful 9-21 the year before and had a losing record in four of the previous five seasons. However, he would win two Ohio Valley Conference Championships in his four years at the school.
At the age of 32, Lebo guided the undermanned Golden Eagles to a 12-15 mark in his first season in 1998-99. The following year, Tennessee Tech had the most wins in 10 years improving to 16-12, earning Lebo OVC Coach of the Year honors.
In only his third season in 2000-01, Lebo led Tennessee Tech to a 20-9 record and the first of back-to-back OVC Championships. It marked the most wins for the school in 54 years, going all the way back to 1946-47. It was also Tech's first league title in 16 years since 1984-85, and Lebo garnered his second-straight OVC Coach of the Year honor.
Lebo earned his third-straight OVC Coach of the Year honor as Tech mastered a school record 27-7 mark overall and a 15-1 league record in 2001-02 en route to a second-consecutive OVC Championship. The Golden Eagles came within one game of the NIT Final Four, losing at eventual champion Memphis, 79-73. He was tabbed as the District VII NABC Coach of the Year.
Tennessee Tech boasted a season-best 12-game winning streak, including 10-straight conference victories. After losing at Murray State 70-69 in the OVC Tournament championship game, the Golden Eagles defeated Georgia State, Dayton and Yale in the NIT. He was named the Tennessee Coach of the Year.
Lebo began his coaching career as an assistant at East Tennessee State under Alan LeForce for two seasons from 1990-92. The Buccaneers made two-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, advancing to the second round in 1992 after the 14th-seeded Bucs upset No. 3-seeded Arizona 87-80. ETSU, which was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by eventual National runner-up Michigan and the Fab Five, 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, lost to Iowa 76-73 in the NCAA Tournament and won both the SoCon regular season and tournament championships.
Lebo started the first of six seasons as an assistant under coach Eddie Fogler with a SEC Championship, a NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance and a 28-6 record at Vanderbilt in 1992-93. The Commodores went 14-2 in the SEC for only their third league title in history and their first since 1974. Vanderbilt defeated Boise State and Illinois in the NCAA Tournament before losing to Temple in the Sweet 16.
Lebo then followed Fogler to South Carolina where he spent five seasons and helped lead the Gamecocks to their only SEC Championship in 1997 and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.
After turning the South Carolina program around from 9-19 and 10-17 records the first two seasons, Fogler and Lebo led the Gamecocks to an average of 22 wins over the next three years. USC went 19-12 and reached the NIT third round in 1995-96, went 24-8 and won the SEC Championship in 1996-97 and was 23-8 in 1997-98, reaching the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.
After playing for his father, Dave, at Carlisle (Pa.) High School, Lebo was coached at North Carolina by the legendary Dean Smith, the all-time leader in coaching victories with 879. Lebo's college teammates included NBA greats Kenny Smith of the World Champion Houston Rockets and now a broadcaster on TNT and Rick Fox, formerly of the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
In addition to all of his success at North Carolina, Lebo left the Tar Heels with single-season records for free throw shooting (.878 in 1987-88) and 3-point shooting (.462 in 1987-88). He still ranks among the program's top 24 in career scoring with 1,567 points and is eighth in career assists with 580. A 1989 graduate of the University of North Carolina with a degree in Business Administration, Lebo was presented the school's Patterson Award, given to UNC's top student-athlete for academic achievement.
Lebo has developed a teaching video cassette titled "Half-Court Trapping and Double-Teaming the Post."
Lebo was born Oct. 5, 1966, in Enola, Pa. He married the former Melissa Mills of Williamston, N.C., on Aug. 8, 1992. The couple has two daughters, Addison (14) and Mills (11) and a son, Creighton (7).
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