Jacobs: "Our Number One Goal Is To Win"

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs talks about the dismissal of coach Jeff Lebo and what direction he's looking for the new coach.

Auburn, Ala.--There weren't many people surprised when it was announced on Friday that Auburn basketball coach Jeff Lebo had been dismissed by athletic director Jay Jacobs. While the news wasn't a shocker, Jacobs said it didn't make it any easier for him to deliver when the time came.

"First of all let me say there's not a finer guy than Jeff Lebo," Jacobs said. "He operated this program on class and integrity and character. I just appreciate so much the way he represented Auburn on and off the court every day. Not only him, but his family and his assistant coaches and their families. It was a tough day for everybody, but our number one goal is to win."

Scheduling a meeting today with Lebo, Jacobs said he had decided going in that he needed to make a change and told the coach of that while they met on Friday. That's part of the process of being an athletic director said Jacobs, the need to constantly evaluate a program so when the time comes a decision can be made.

"Today I met with Jeff at noon," Jacobs said. "I felt strongly we needed to make a change. During that meeting today is when I told him that I was going to make a change in the basketball program. I can't say any finer things about a guy and the way he has represented Auburn throughout his six years here and his assistant coaches.

"I continuously evaluate all of our programs," he added. "That's part of what my stewardship is here. I look year to year and over a three-year period, over a four-year period, over a five-year period. I just looked at the entire six-year period. I looked at the entire body of work."

Those assistant coaches will now have the opportunity to either continue to work at Auburn in the wake of a new coach being hired, or they'll pack up and move on. Jacobs said those things are still in the works at the moment.

"Bernard Hill will meet with the staff over the next week or two and they'll mutually agree upon if they're going to stay and continue to work and have an opportunity to interview with the next head coach," Jacobs said. "Or they may leave and then come back and have a chance to interview."

Without the coaches in place at the moment Jacobs and Hill met with the team on Friday afternoon and Hill has taken over the day to day administrative duties for the program until a replacement is hired. Hill will be keeping tabs with the current team as well as the signees scheduled to come in next year.

One of the factors for making a change is the fact that Auburn will be playing in a brand new, state of the art, $90 million arena beginning next year. Jacobs said while that came into play some, it was far from the only considering for making a change.

"The number one thing is winning," Jacobs said. "When I looked at this process I looked at it with and without the arena. I thought through it and looked at it both ways. I'm certainly excited about the commitment to the new arena. Also it shows a tremendous commitment to men's basketball with the decision that I made today. Our number one goal is to win. We have to win ball games. All of our teams should be able to compete for championships. I think we've got a great opportunity."

Now the process of finding Auburn's 20th head coach begins with Jacobs in charge and trying to find the right fit for Auburn at this time. He said much like football he has a starting list of five guys in mind but wouldn't talk about who they were. He did say that he doesn't have any certain qualifications he's looking for to be the next coach of the Tigers, but he did want him to be of a certain quality.

"I told those guys (players) in that room that I'm looking for the best guy for them," Jacobs said. "An Auburn man that is the right fit for those current players and those signees that we have and that represents them and this athletic department and represents this university and the Auburn family. That's the guy we're looking for.

"We're going to look at everybody that may have an interest in this job," he added. "We're going to find the right fit, the right guy that will represent these guys and the signees in the best way and give them the best chance to compete."

As for a timeline for when the new coach could be announced, Jacobs said it could be several weeks before a coach is hired because of the upcoming NCAA Tournament. With teams still playing Jacobs said that could slow things down considerably for the search.

"As our folks have gone back and looked over other institutions, particularly in this league, that have gone through this it always takes several weeks because of the NCAA Tournament," Jacobs said. "We're going to do things the right way, the Auburn way. If guys are in the tournament we're certainly going to respect that with their current institution."

Two of the factors that could play into Auburn's decision and perhaps the decision of a coach looking at Auburn is the contract with Under Armour and its influence in recruiting as compared to Nike and Adidas as well as not being to effectively recruit in AAU circles in Alabama because of Mark Komara and the ruling from the NCAA that declared him an Auburn booster. Jacobs said he wouldn't comment on Komara because it's an NCAA matter, but he did note that Auburn's teams will continue to work with Under Armour and he doesn't think it should impact recruiting at all.

"The thing that is sometimes misunderstood is that we still have the traditional way of recruiting student athletes at the high school," Jacobs said. "Just because we can't get to 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 and with the high school coaches and with the mommas and daddies."

Lebo will be paid $1.5 million by Auburn after making right around $800,000 per year. That's among the lowest paid coaches in the SEC. Jacobs said that won't be the case when Auburn prepares to hire its next coach though. He said they would be competitive with programs in the SEC when it comes to paying a coach. That, along with one of the top new arenas anywhere, should make the Auburn job an attractive one for coaches around the country.

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