Like Father Like Son For the Lebo Family

For Jeff and Dave Lebo coaching basketball is a family affair.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's new basketball coach, like many other head coaches around the country, is the son of a coach. However, unlike most father-son coaching combos, Jeff and Dave Lebo's relationship on the court was not confined to the time Jeff spent playing for his father growing up.

Dave Lebo is an assistant coach for his son and has been ever since he got his first head-coaching job six years ago. "I come down as a proud papa and not as an assistant basketball coach," Lebo said about his first trip to the Plains. "I have been with him for the last six years and there aren't too many fathers who ever get an opportunity to coach for their son."

The elder Lebo said that he has enjoyed making the long journey from the time when he was teaching his son the game they both love to now sharing the coaching duties at an SEC level program.

"He played four years for me in high school and of course I followed his career and when he got his first head job he called me and asked me if I was interested in helping him coach basketball," Lebo explained. "I refused him for about a week then finally started to think about it and ended up retiring from teaching and coaching in Pennsylvania and went to Tennessee Tech with him and we kind of packed up and came to Tennessee. Then we followed him to Chattanooga and obviously we are going to follow him down here."

Dave Lebo talks to reporters at Thursday's press conference.

Dave Lebo said that his son's attitude as a player growing up is one of the big things that helped make him the coach that he is today. "I tell you, I have coached a long time and he is probably the toughest kid that I have ever coached," he noted. "He probably had the greatest, intense desire to learn of anybody that I have ever been around in basketball. He is just a knowledge seeker. He wanted to learn what he could learn."

Lebo's father said that his son's love of the game was very evident early on. "You know he has really been intensely interested in the game of basketball," he said. "I remember when I took him to his first camp. It was Press Marivich, who is a big-time name for anybody in basketball. It was in first grade, he was five years old, and I took him to Press Marivich's camp in Pennsylvania. I can remember him as a little kid sitting there taking notes and writing down things that coaches would say. He just had an unusual interest in learning the game of basketball."

The Tigers' new assistant coach also noted that his son's choice to play college basketball at North Carolina for Dean Smith was one of the greatest decisions of his life. "He was an excellent student in school and we were so happy that he chose North Carolina because that is where he was able to grow as person as well as a basketball player," Lebo said. "Of course, we look at it from a mother and father standpoint and he was able to grow there at the university as young man and the basketball we knew would take care of itself.

"So, we were pleased that he went there and we are a part of that basketball connection," he explained. "I know a lot of people say that the North Carolina tradition is a lot of hogwash, but it really isn't. There is really a family and they have been great with Jeff and he has so much respect and admiration for their program. I think that is a model that he has established for himself and we couldn't be any prouder of him."

However, the elder Lebo, who said he saw a lot of potential in his son as a coach, also explained that he had a surprising comment for his son when he told him he was thinking about joining the coaching fraternity.

"Nobody knows how hard he has ever worked," Lebo said. "If anybody knows his dad knows. I mean, he has worked so hard to make himself a player and to make himself knowledgeable in the game of basketball. I knew that someday if he ever wanted to be a coach he would probably be a good one. In fact, when he told me he was first going to get into coaching after he left the (NBA's San Antonio) Spurs, I told him that he was a fool for even trying to get into this business. But, I told him, I think you have the pedigree to get in at the college level and the D-I level and go ahead and follow through and he got coach Smith's advice."

Being able to take on such a prominent role in his son's life and career, the elder Lebo said that the past six years have been a dream come true. "I have tried to stay in the background all the time and he knows that I am going to be extremely loyal and I am going to work my butt off for him," he noted. "I usually work with all of the big men and it has just been exciting for me to be a part of that. Just to be a part of not only his basketball career, but also his family."

As for his role on his son's staff at Auburn, Dave Lebo said, "I will do whatever he wants me to do, but I am sure that I will be probably doing the same thing, working with the big guys," he explained. "Working with the inside guys and just doing anything he wants me to do as far a coaching is concerned."

As for what it is like having your son as your boss, Lebo noted that although it can be tough at times, he wouldn't trade the experience for the world. "Well, I think he enjoys being the boss," Lebo said with a big smile. "He is kind of paying me back for all of the tough times that I put him through when he played for me. But, basketball has been a special relationship between father and son and I am a basketballaholic and he grew up around basketball and it has kind of been special in cementing our relationship."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories