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The one who got away

Hey everyone. Based wholly on a suggestion from Jet, I watched the final 5 minutes of the UTEP-Houston game. I couldn't help but notice that Kelvin Lewis, the former Auburn guard, scored 28 points in the Cougars' win.

They're headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992.

Auburn is not headed to the tournament.

Lebo lost a ton of talented guys during his six years on the Plains: Lewis, Marco Killingsworth, Lew Monroe, Toney Douglas and Josh Dollard among others. That's a great starting five right there.

Jay Jacobs speaks

I'll have to do a summary here. Quotes will take a little bit.

Jacobs said:

  • ... he really likes Jeff Lebo as a person.

  • ... he informed Lebo around noon, less than an hour after most of the team flew home from Nashville.

  • ... he is considering all candidates that are interested in this job.

  • ... he doesn't consider head-coach experience a requirement.

  • ... he is planning to pay the next coach a salary that's commensurate with other SEC coaches. Lebo made approximately $750,000. Most league coaches are above $1 million.

  • ... he has a short list of candidates.

  • ... he may or may not hire a consulting firm.

  • ... he doesn't expect to hire someone quickly. The NCAA Tournament may be a hindrance from a hiring perspective and the Final Foul is the perfect place to find a coach. They're all there.

  • ... he wants a coach who's willing to market and promote the program.

  • ... he believes Auburn basketball is capable of winning championships. Plural.

  • ... the school's exclusive deal with Under Armour will prohibit the next coach from signing shoe deals with Nike or adidas. That could be a sticking point.

  • ... he wasn't sure how the next coach would be affected by Auburn's voluntary ban on influential AAU sponsor Mark Komara. Lebo spoke often about how that situation was a major recruiting hindrance.

  • ... an Auburn official (Bernard Hill) is in the process of talking with the signees and explaining the situation to them.

  • "I just believe we can win championships. I believe we ought to be playing for championships and it doesn 't matter to me what the sport is. I believe we better be playing for championships and graduating our student-athletes. I believe that's what the Auburn people expect and me being one of the, I expect that."

  • ``There's nothing about this decision that was easy. It doesn't matter what the factors are. When you are going to impact a program and families' lives and children that go to school, my children's lives, there's nothing easy. But at the end of the day, I've got to put personal feelings aside, and I've got to be the athletic director and do what I think is best."

  • On how the Under Armour deal affects things: ``The thing that is sometimes misunderstood. We still have the traditional way of recruiting student-athletes at the high school. Just because we can’t get to maybe a sports club or something like that or it’s perceived that we can’t, we still get to compete from a recruiting standpoint in the high schools with the high school coaches and with the mamas and daddies."

Letter from Jay Jacobs to you, Auburn Fan

Here's what Jacobs sent out earlier today:


Dear Auburn Family,

As most of you know by now, Coach Jeff Lebo will not return as head basketball coach at Auburn University.

I met with Coach Lebo earlier today and informed him that the time had come to move Auburn's basketball program in a new direction. As I shared with Coach Lebo, we deeply appreciate all that he and his staff have done for Auburn, and we wish each of them and their families nothing but the best. Coach Lebo has shown the utmost character, integrity and professionalism throughout his tenure at Auburn. He is and always will be a member of the Auburn Family.

While this was a difficult decision, our goals have not been met. Our basketball program has not made the progress we had all hoped it would make. Auburn ranks 11th out of 12 teams in both total wins and conference wins in the Southeastern Conference over the past six years. We have failed to reach the NCAA tournament each of the past six years, and we have reached the NIT only once. We know that Auburn can compete at a higher level in basketball, because we have done so in the past.

Our top goals as a department are winning and graduating our student-athletes. My responsibility is doing what is necessary to give our student-athletes the best chance to compete at the highest level. That is why a change was made.

While we always will remember and appreciate what Coach Lebo has done for Auburn, we must now turn our attention to the future of Auburn basketball. We will immediately begin the search for a new head coach to lead our program.

We will conduct a deliberate and thorough search driven by what is best for our student-athletes and our basketball program. Rumor and speculation will be rampant in the coming days. As in past searches, much if not most of what you may read or hear will be wrong. We will not refute rumors or comment on who will or won't be considered or who has or hasn't been interviewed. Our sole goal is to find the right man for Auburn.

Judging by recent searches at other schools, this process is more likely to take weeks than days. Rest assured that we are committed to finding a head coach who is the best fit for our team, this department, the Auburn Family and the community. We will find a coach with character and integrity who will always represent Auburn with class and who will energize our basketball program.

The new Auburn Arena demonstrates our commitment to basketball and our belief that we can compete for SEC championships and be a regular participant in the NCAA Tournament. The arena will help us in recruiting, it will give our new coach and our team a better home-court advantage and it will vastly improve the game-day experience for the Auburn Family.

There is no doubt in my mind that the future of Auburn basketball is bright. The Auburn Spirit is as strong as I have ever seen it, and the Auburn Family is as united as it has ever been. Let's continue to pull in the same direction. While we are certain to have our own opinions about how to achieve it, I am confident that we all share the same goal-to make Auburn the best that it can be.

I want to thank all of you for your support of Auburn University and Auburn Athletics. We ask for your patience as we move ahead in the coming days and weeks.

God Bless and War Eagle!

Jay Jacobs
Director of Athletics

That's a wrap: Lebo is gone

Hey everyone. Athletic director Jay Jacobs has confirmed what we have been discussing for a few hours.

Jeff Lebo is now a part of Auburn history.

"I want to thank Coach Lebo for all that he has done for Auburn University over the past six years," Jacobs said. "Coach Lebo has worked hard and has always represented Auburn with character, class and integrity. However, we feel like the time has come for Auburn basketball to move in a new direction. We deeply appreciate all that he and his staff have done for Auburn, and we wish each of them and their families nothing but the best."

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

On Lebo Watch 2010

Hey everyone. I left Nashville early this morning to get on campus for what will be an eventful day. I consider it very likely (ie >98.5%) that Jeff Lebo will get fired.

I haven't yet confirmed that on the record. Until I do, I must leave the situation open-ended. You know my rules.

The Tigers ended their season with a loss to Florida last night, capping a 15-17 season. Lebo is 96-93 in six seasons on the Plains.

I'll update with information as it becomes available.

Though we haven't yet confirmed that Lebo has been fired, here are some guys you need to know about:

**Chuck Person, special assistant with the L.A. Lakers

**Mike Anderson, coach at Missouri, makes $1.3 million right now and turned down advances from Georgia last year

**Tony Barbee, coach at UTEP and former John Calipari assistant

**Danny Manning, assistant coach at Kansas

**Nate James, assistant coach at Duke

**Johnny Jones, coach at North Texas (headed to the NCAAs) and played at LSU

**Ron Hunter, coach at IUPUI, has won 66 games in three seasons including one NCAA appearance

Florida def. Auburn, 78-69

That's a wrap. Florida scored for too many easy baskets and Auburn didn't.

Frankie Sullivan was awesome. Tay Waller wasn't.

That's your story.

I'll add more later.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

Chuck Person speaks up

Hey everyone. If Jeff Lebo gets fired, which remains to be seen, it's reasonable to believe Chuck Person will be a target. The former Auburn star now spends his days as a special assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he was in Nashville tonight being recognized as an SEC Legend.

I think he fits the bill. He was an All-American choice twice.

Anyway, he said some interesting stuff about the Auburn situation ... and his possible involvement.

  • On the program's current state: ``Basketball is important to me at Auburn. I understand the dynamics of their football situation out there ... but Auburn can win in basketball as well as football if you get the right players."

  • On if he'd make the transition to college coaching: ``I think I'm kind of institutionalized when it comes to the pros: 15 years as a player, 10 as a coach or an executive in the front office. If the opportunity presents itself ... you want to be able to be a head coach at the highest level. Obviously, the pros would be my first choice ... but if I could get to a good college job in a good conference ... I would look into it."

Le Campfire: Lebo Last Stand? Edition

There was a campfire here. Now it's gone.

Thanks to everyone for such great participation! See new thread above.

Could this be Lebo's last stand?

Hey everyone. The hardcore HOTTIES know I've spent some time recently working on a story about Jeff Lebo, the job he's done so far and the possibility for improvement.

Guess what? It ran in today's sections of the Advertiser.

Jeff Lebo + Auburn: Is it love on the rocks?

The Tigers open/conclude postseason play today in Nashville against Florida. We'll be CHATTIN' IT UP during the game tonight -- provided the SEC doesn't pester me about live updates -- and it'll be a fun time.

Here's a look at the matchup:

in the SEC Tournament

When: Today, 6:30 p.m. CST

Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.

Records: Auburn (15-16, 6-10); Florida (20-11, 9-7)

On the air: TV — SEC Network; Radio — WMSP-AM 740 and WLWI-FM 92.3 (in Montgomery)

Probable starting lineups:
PG Dewayne Reed (6-1, 175), 16.1 ppg.
G Frankie Sullivan (6-1, 195), 12.2 ppg.
G Tay Waller (6-2, 193), 15.9 ppg.
F Lucas Hargrove (6-6, 220), 12.9 ppg
F Johnnie Lett (6-8, 210), 1.9 ppg.

PG Erving Walker (5-8, 170), 12.7 ppg.
SG Kenny Boynton (6-2, 185), 13.5 ppg.
F Alex Tyus (6-8, 220), 11.8 ppg.
F Chandler Parsons (6-9, 215), 12 ppg.
C Vernon Macklin (6-10, 240), 10.7 ppg.

Notes: Auburn lost by eight points at Florida last month … The Tigers built their first conference winning streak with wins against LSU and Mississippi State before losing their season finale at Alabama last weekend … Waller has cracked the 20-point barrier in five consecutive league games, which hasn't been done by an Auburn player since 1994 (Wesley Person) … Reed needs one steal to become the program's all-time leader in that category … The Tigers are 0-3 in games played at this arena …

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

Two ESPN analysts weigh in on Lebo

Hey everyone. It's my belief that we're only a few days from Jeff Lebo's Judgment Day on the Plains. His team is 15-16 and needs a nearly historic run to make the NCAAs.

Short summary: Typical season of Auburn basketball.

With that in mind, I spoke with Jimmy Dykes and Pat Forde recently about Lebo's situation. Dykes, as you probably know, is an analyst for many of ESPN's basketball telecasts and Forde is a popular guy. I see him on ESPN from time to time as well.

Here's what they had to say...

Former Arkansas player and coach

On his overall assessment of Lebo's job performance: ``Any real evaluation of Jeff Lebo, if you want to be fair to Jeff Lebo, can't be done until we see what he can do with the new arena. What he has to work with, that old arena -- it's an eyesore and a hindrance to everything they're trying to do."

On why he deserves more time: ``He's been playing from behind because of the facilities. I've been amazed at the job he's done so far. Nobody questions his ability to coach. He's great with the Xs and Os. Auburn deserved to finish dead last every single year with those facilities and the fact is that Jeff has done a lot better than that. Auburn needs to look itself in the eye and decide if it's been fair to Jeff Lebo."

On if it's fair to compare Auburn to Mississippi State (asked because MSU's basketball program, which also faces many of the same struggles, is consistently more competitive than Auburn's program): ``Auburn is much more of a football school. There's no doubt about it. We know where football ranks at Auburn -- both with the fans and on that campus. Basketball is much more of an emphasis at Mississippi State. It's not a fair comparison."

More on Lebo's value: ``Who are they going to get? Lebo has as good a pedigree as you'll find. He's a great coach. He has less resources than everyone else in that league. It's a fact. He's gotten the most out of the talent he's been able to get. A It's not like Auburn has done much to help him. The new arena is a big step forward."

Former Missouri student and Louisville columnist

On his overall assessment of Lebo's job performance: ``Auburn is pretty stagnant right now and I don't see much progress being made. Auburn is a football school. That's no secret. It's tough to overcome that pedigree, but that should be the goal. It shouldn't be that hard. In basketball, it takes fewer players to change your program. I just don't think Auburn is challenging for those kinds of players. Until that changes, I don't expect to see Auburn get much better."

On if it's even possible for Auburn to challenge for excellent players: ``Absolutely, it's possible. There are great players in that state. John Calipari has a few good ones. It's obvious there is talent there."

On if he thinks Lebo will improve: ``Here's a good way to put it -- he's trying to do it the right way in all ways. I'm talking about academics and behavior and the whole thing. There's a lot to be said for that, for running a clean program. The bigger problem for him may be that there isn't a basketball culture down there. That's something you don't create overnight."

More from Pro Day

After the "measurable" portion of the workout, players were sent outside to work position-specific drills. Some scouts take this stuff pretty seriously, but most simply watch while conversing with fellow scouts.

That's how they roll.

Of note:

**Ben Tate and Lester were put through drills by former Mississippi State coach Sly Croom, who now coaches with the St. Louis Rams.

**Tate still has that chip on his shoulder. ``I kept telling you all I was fast. I've been underestimated all my career. One day, the underdog will be on top."

**Lester was on the B.C. Lions practice squad last year and currently is attending Auburn to complete his degree. He's hoping to catch on with an NFL team this fall.

**McKenzie seemed disappointed by his set of numbers, which I thought were outstanding. ``I came here to put up numbers and I didn't get what I wanted."

**So why did McKenzie miss spring practice last year? ``Just stressing out. The season that we had (in 2008), I took it real hard. That last game -- I put it on myself, that the last game was my fault. I can’t do stuff like that. I can’t let stuff stress me out. I can’t let that happen again."

**Robert Johnson said he was inspired to jump back into pro football by his two young sons, who were running around the house in December with Johnson's old football helmets on their heads. ``I wanted to give them a chance to see what their dad could do on a football field."

**Johnson was on the New Orleans Saints' practice squad in 2006.

**Maurice Smith, the two-time Olympic decathlete, said he's hoping to catch on with an NFL team despite little experience. ``I played pick-up football with my friends in Arizona in junior college. I have speed and I have the hands." Smith won a silver medal at the 2007 World Championships and was Team Jamaica's captain in Beijing.

**McFadden was given his EAABWAA "Good Guy Award" plaque today:

**Here are your 40 times in order:
McFadden, 4.39
Billings, 4.42
Lester, 4.46
Gabe Barrett, 4.60
Maurice Smith, 4.69
Dunn, 4.70
Coleman, 4.72
McKenzie, 4.74
Todd, 4.84
Ricks, 4.95
Ro. Johnson, 5.01

**Here are your vertical jumps in order:
Lester, 38 inches
McKenzie, 37
McFadden, 35.5
Billings, 34
Coleman, 33.5
Maurice Smith, 32.5
Barrett, 32.5
Ro. Johnson, 28
Todd, 27.5
Ricks, 24.5

Pro Day

Hey everyone. We are live from the Watson Fieldhouse, where the standard tests are being administered.

Today's participants:
DE/LB Antonio Coleman
CB Walt McFadden
TE/DE Gabe McKenzie
DT Jake Ricks
QB Chris Todd
DB Gabe Barrett (walk-on)
TE Robert Johnson (last season at Auburn was 2003, I believe)
TB Brad Lester (last season at Auburn was 2008)
WR Montez Billings
WR Robert Dunn (last season at Auburn was 2008)
?? Maurice Smith (Olympic decathlete, competed at Auburn)

**Ben Tate apparently is not working out today. He submitted to a weigh-in, but oddly didn't want people measuring his height.

**McFadden had the fastest 40 time. His first was 4.42. His second was 4.39.

**Billings had a pair of mid-4.4 runs.

**I think the scouts were surprised (pleasantly) by Johnson's 4.9.

**Billings is the early leader on the long jump: 10 feet, 6.5 inches.

**Lester was at 10-2.5.

**Maurice Smith, the former Olympic decathlete, jumped a 10-3.

**More long jump numbers: Walt McFadden (10-3.5), Coleman (9-8) and McKenzie (10-4).

**Gabe McKenzie (above) is ready to work today. He posted a 10-4 jump (the second best of the day among all players), a 37" vert jump and a 4.6 in the 40. He's in great shape.

**Coleman ran a 6.8 in the "three cone drill," which didn't seem to shock scouts. Or maybe they were hiding their enthusiasm. That could be the case.

**Scouts were more enthusiastic about McFadden's work in the three cone drill. I can't give you time, but I assure you the scouts were impressed.

**Here are the numbers from the bench press. It's a matter of how many repetitions of 225 pounds each player can complete: McKenzie (22), Lester (22), Ricks (15), Barrett (14), Todd (13), Robert Johnson (12), Maurice Smith (12), McFadden (5).

**Tate (combine), Coleman (combine), Billings (personal decision) and Dunn (personal decision) didn't compete in the bench press.

Schedule update

Today is Pro Day on Les Plaines.

Several players will participate, though only a few are considered engaging professional prospects. That group includes Ben Tate, Antonio Coleman and Walter McFadden.

The shindig begins around 1 p.m. The HABOTN video, photo and writing crews will be on hand to gather information for you. Please check out what will be WALL TO WALL coverage.

On the subject of Lebo's success ...

Hey everyone. So I'm still working on that story about Jeff Lebo, whose future employment at Auburn is in question. The Tigers haven't been all that good under his tutelage.

I think it's important to consider his work in the context of his predecessors. Auburn isn't North Carolina, Gonzaga or even Winthrop in terms of basketball aura. Or expectations.

So how does he stack up against former Auburn guys? I'm glad you asked.

Note that only two guys -- one of them a football coach -- cracked .500 in league games. That's amazing to me.

Sorted by their SEC winning percentage

  • Joel Eaves, 14 seasons: 213-100 (68%), 124-75 (57%)

  • Ralph Jordan, 10 seasons: 95-77 (55%), 61-56 (52%)

  • Bill Lynn, 10 seasons: 130-124 (51%), 84-88 (49%)

  • Bob Davis, 5 seasons: 70-61 (53%), 42-48 (47%)

  • Cliff Ellis, 10 seasons: 186-125 (59%), 73-87 (45%)

  • Sonny Smith, 11 seasons: 173-154 (53%), 84-114 (42%)

  • Danny Doyle, 2 seasons: 21-25 (46%), 12-18 (40%)

  • Jeff Lebo, 6th season: 96-92 (51%), 35-61 (36%)

  • Tommy Joe Eagles, 5 seasons, 64-78 (45%), 29-55 (34%)

  • Bob Evans, 2 seasons: 4-28 (13%), 3-18 (14%)

  • V.J. Edney, 1 season: 3-18 (14%), 1-15 (6%)

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

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