Jeff Lebo Preseason Q&A: Part Two

Our Josh Graham caught up with ECU men's basketball coach Jeff Lebo to discuss the Pirates upcoming season.

Josh Graham: Conference USA has been given a face-lift and now features several new members. After looking at who actually makes up the league, how do you assess it as a whole?

Jeff Lebo: "It's a good basketball league. What's going to be unique and new for us is the format. We're going to play on Thursdays and Saturdays and we'll have travel partners, which is new for us. We only play one team twice, so every game is going to be a new preparation. That is going to be a little bit unique. I've never been in a situation where I've been in a league to do that.

"And then what's going to be unique about it, we're going to change back and do something different the next year (in the American Athletic Conference). Our kids are excited about the league and seeing some new faces in the league. The change, we're still trying to figure out how we want to attack that from a travel standpoint and a preparation standpoint because that will be much different for us than we had last year."

JG: As a member of the North Carolina Tar Heels, you played Cameron Indoor Stadium. Now as coach, you will return there with the chance of playing the Duke Blue Devils. What are your memories of Cameron?

Lebo: "It's a great venue to play. One of the best in college basketball and I have a lot of fond memories of playing there. I did make a pact to myself when I left that I was never going to go back there to play, but it's an awesome place. And their program, obviously, has been at an elite level for many many many years and we hope to get an opportunity to move after the first game to get a chance to play at the next level. "It will be exciting for our kids and that's what we want to do with our kids; giving them a chance to play against some of these ACC teams. We've played North Carolina, we'll play N.C. State, possibly play at Duke. These are games that our kids will remember for the rest of their lives."

JG: What does that say about this program to play North Carolina, N.C. State and maybe Duke in nearly the span of a year?

Lebo: "I don't know how smart that is as a coach, but it's exciting for our players and exciting for our fans to be able to see those teams on our schedule. We wish that we could get them to come down to Greenville like some of the football and baseball teams do, but we haven't been able to twist anybody's arm to get them to come to Greenville yet. But that will be exciting for our fans and mainly for our players and that's why we do it." JG: There were just four Division I teams that cut down the nets in April and yours was one of them. Have you already seen some of the after-effects from winning the CIT Championship?

Lebo: "We've had a barrier here for the history of our program. To be able to break through and have a winning season, to be able to win more than 50 percent of your conference games, to have a chance to win on the road, we haven't done that very much here, and get to postseason and win a postseason game, that's been a big barrier.

"To win five and to win a championship was big. Sometimes those barriers you talk about them and you think they are not real, but they are when you're going through it. To be able to break through those things for some of those kids have been big and to prove that we can win and do it consistently in a year and not just one game, I think is big.

"We've got a lot of new guys, so they don't know what it's going to be like. But for the guys coming back, I think it's big from a confidence standpoint."

JG: Since you don't talk much about wins and losses, what are the expectations for this year's team?

Lebo: "We're going to talk about them here soon with our team and they will have ownership to what those goals will be, but for me as a coach, I'm trying to find out a lot about my team and find out a lot about my players because we're so new.

"Again, my total focus with them and talking to them at practice is ‘what can I do as a player to get myself better every day?' and ‘what can I do to help the team get better every single day?' and that's the focus right now of our preseason. We'll talk more as we get closer to that first game about what our team goals will be."

JG: Some fans were actually turned away at the door prior to the last game played at Minges Coliseum in the CIT Tournament. What do you expect the atmosphere to be like in that building when your team takes the floor against N.C. Wesleyan on Nov. 8?

Lebo: "I hope that we will have a lot of excitement and a lot of people there. Our fans have been terrific and that's an awesome place to play when we have our people in it. We've really got a home-court advantage and its one of the few places I've ever been that has a home-court advantage when they play. I haven't coached at a lot of places that have had that.

"We've got that and we've kind of established how tough it is to play at our place and our fans have really taken ownership and have really helped us in many games to get over the hump. We hope that will grow, we hope that will continue and again, our fans have been terrific at coming out and supporting our team."

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