What is it with Jeff Lebo and Auburn fans? By every measurable category, he's been a complete disaster as head basketball coach. From the moment he walked in the door and most of his new players walked out the other, Lebo has slowly been dying on the vine. Yet, despite going 35-60 in SEC play over six seasons, fans are perplexed over what athletic director Jay Jacobs should do with Lebo come next Monday.
The idea that his future at Auburn is salvageable has to be mind-boggling to the casual observer. Lebo is like the son that pulls a mid-term F up to a C+ at report card time. You don't know whether to say great job or take his car away from him. This season has been no different.
Failing to feast on the weakest of weak non-conference schedules, Auburn's loss to Alabama Saturday gives Lebo his fourth losing regular season in six tries. Despite winning three of its final five conference games, his squad heads to the SEC Tournament this week sitting at 15-16 overall, 6-10 in the SEC.
By comparison, the man he replaced, Cliff Ellis, won the regular season Big South Conference Championship at Coastal Carolina this year, going 28-6. He lost to Winthrop in the conference tournament Saturday and is headed to the NIT. Cliff's disappointed with the destination. Auburn would be handing out contract extensions and printing up t-shirts for a second consecutive birth in the Big Apple Tournament.
A Lebo encore in 2011 will likely look similar to the previous six. With the loss of five seniors, Auburn will say goodbye next season to 73 percent of its scoring and 59 percent of its rebounding. Can there really be any rational argument for keeping Lebo another year?
It goes without saying that an Auburn football coach would never be given this much rope. A better question is whether even the girls soccer coach would be given this much time to succeed?
When Ellis was relieved of his duties in 2004, after going 14-14 overall and 5-11 in conference play, he carried a record of 119-70 overall and 47-49 in the SEC over the previous six seasons, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2003.
Granted, NCAA probation played a huge role in his dismissal. Still, it makes you wonder why Auburn officials have waited so long to make a coaching move. Why have they dropped their standards when it comes to basketball, especially with the Auburn Arena opening in a matter of months?
Conventional wisdom says that barring an appearance in the tournament championship game Sunday, Lebo's time on the Plains is coming to a close. He'll be remembered as a coach that got the very most out of his limited talent on the floor. His teams never quit. That endeared him to Auburn fans. Unfortunately, on more nights than not, he showed up to a gun fight with a knife.
You just can't do that and survive in the SEC.