Tigers Continue Search for Hoops Coach

Updates on the Auburn men's basketball coaching search are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--The interview process has started as Auburn looks for a replacement for Jeff Lebo who was fired as head men's basketball coach for the Tigers.

Lebo, who spent six years in charge of the Auburn program, failed to take the Tigers into NCAA Tournament play. His best team at Auburn, the 2008-2009 squad, won 24 games but finished its season in the NIT.

However, Lebo didn't stay unemployed for long. On Monday he was hired as head coach at East Carolina and introduced at a press conference in Greenville, N.C., on Tuesday.

One of the candidates for the vacant job is former Auburn player Chuck Person, who was in the building for Lebo's final game as Auburn's head coach when the Tigers lost to Florida in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. Person was at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville to be honored as a member of the SEC Legends program.

Person, who spoke to the Auburn Tipoff Club in January prior to attending an AU game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in January, has made it clear that he is interested in returning to the college where he was an All-American performer under Coach Sonny Smith in the 1980s.

Chuck Person is shown in Auburn with his college coach, Sonny Smith, during a ceremony at Beard-Eaves Coliseum in January.

Sources told Inside the Auburn Tigers on Monday that Wright State head coach Brad Brownell has interviewed for the Auburn job. He has been at the Horizon League school for the past four years. Prior to that he was head coach at UNC-Wilmington.

Coach Brad Brownell

On Monday the Denton Record Chronicle newspaper reported that North Texas head coach Johnny Jones will be interviewed for the job this week. His teams have won 20 games four seasons in a row.

Jones, a former assistant coach at LSU and Alabama, played at LSU from 1980-84. He was an assistant at LSU from 1984-97 and from Memphis from 1997-2000. He spent the next season at Alabama and has been at North Texas since then.

Johnny Jones

Jones has a 150-121 record in nine seasons with the Mean Green and took the squad to the Sun Belt title this year with a berth in the NCAA Tournament where they lost to Kansas State to finish 24-9 this season.

Another coach in Texas, Bob Marlin at Sam Houston State, led his Bearkats to the NCAA Tournament this year as champions of the Southland Conference. He is a coach who could be interviewed for the post.

Bob Marlin

Marlin's team defeated Auburn at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum this season. He is a 1991 graduate of Mississippi State.

In 12 seasons at Sam Houston State, Marlin's record is 225-130. That is the most victoryies for any Southland Conference team during his tenure.

He also coached for five seasons at Pensacola, Fla., Junior College where he posted a record of Won 182-111. His 1982-83 team won the juco national title with a 31-5 mark.

Another Texas coach attracting attention is UTEP's Tony Barbee, whose name has been mentioned as a possibility at several colleges after taking his team to the NCAA Tournament this season.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said the Tigers will make a thorough search to find the right man for the job.

Two of the more high-profile coaches mentioned as possibilities are University of Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith and former Auburn All-American Chuck Person, who is an assistant coach for the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers.

At his postgame press conference following Minnesota's loss to Xavier in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Smith was asked about the Auburn job and said he hadn't been offered any jobs. He followed that with further statements that he is happy at Minnesota.

"Obviously that is just talk because I am very pleased with what we have accomplished here," Smith said when asked about his interest in returning to the SEC where he was head coach at Georgia and Kentucky before moving to Minnesota. "I am pleased with where we are in the program. I am looking forward to coming back to Minnesota."

Asked if he had been offered a job by Auburn or any other college, Smith responded by saying, "No, I haven't."

Smith is a three-time SEC Coach of the Year and twice won the honor as Missouri Valley Conference of the Year at Tulsa. Smith has won national coach of the year honors three times and led Kentucky to the 1998 NCAA title. His teams have won 20 games for 17 consecutive seasons starting in his third season at Tulsa with the run continuing at Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota, where he just finished his third season.

Person is the all-time leading scorer in Auburn history and a former NBA player whose entire coaching career has been in the pro league. Person's jersey is retired as his the number of his brother, Wesley, who was also an NBA player.

Chuck Person led the Tigers to their best ever run in the NCAA Tournament taking the Tigers to the Elite Eight Round in 1986 before the Tigers fell to eventual national champion Louisville.

With the Tigers scheduled to move into a new state-of-the-art basketball arena this season, Jacobs is looking for a coach who will cause excitement in the program.

Stay tuned for to AUTigers.com for updates on the search for the man who will be the 20th head coaching in Auburn basketball history. Premium subscribers can click on the links below for coaching search news and notes and can join the discussion about the hunt for a new Auburn coach:

Tuesday Update--Chuck Person to Interview

East Carolina's official announcement of Lebo as head coach:

"Jeff Lebo, who has 12 years of collegiate head coaching experience leading three programs to post-season or conference championship game appearances, has been named men's basketball head coach at East Carolina according to an announcement from director of athletics Terry Holland Monday.

"Lebo, whose appointment is pending approval by the ECU Board of Trustees, will be introduced to the media at a 4:30 p.m. press conference Tuesday. He takes over the Pirate program after spending the last six seasons at Auburn.

Lebo has averaged nearly 18 wins per season during his head coaching career, compiling an all-time record of 211-156 (.575). He has been asked to rebuild three programs during that span and responded by leading each program to at least one 20-win season before departing. He has guided two teams into National Invitation Tournament (NIT) play, winning five of seven contests - falling on both occasions to teams which advanced to the NIT Championship Game.

Lebo, 43, will become East Carolina's 23rd head men's basketball coach in the school's all-time history and directly succeed Mack McCarthy, who recorded a 34-57 mark in three years heading the Pirates' program.

"Jeff Lebo has established a well-deserved reputation as a 'program turner,'" Holland said. "He has a proven track record as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach. When you combine those attributes with his desire for his family to be located in eastern North Carolina, it gives me great comfort that we have the opportunity to establish something very special for our basketball program over the next few decades under Jeff's leadership."

Wright State's Brownell

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