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Friday, March 12, 2010

Jay Jacobs: Auburn basketball program needed change, search could take several weeks

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs met with reporters today to discuss basketball coach Jeff Lebo's dismissal after six seasons. Here are the highlights of what he had to say:
  • "First of all, let me say, not a finer guy than Jeff Lebo. He operated this program with class, integrity and character. 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. Just a tough day for everybody."
  • Jacobs met with Lebo at noon, feeling strongly that the program needed a change.
  • Senior associate athletics director Bernard Hill is in charge of the basketball program right now. He'll meet with assistants in the upcoming weeks to talk about whether or not they'll be back.
  • Hill and Jacobs informed the team about the decision. Some are already on spring break. Hill planned to call them. "We told them and Bernard has been the sports administrator for basketball for over a year now and knows all those guys and they know him," Jacobs said. "They're all headed out for spring break but Bernard Hill will be overseeing the men's basketball program from an administrative standpoint for the next two or three weeks."
  • Hill will also call the signees for next season.
  • Gaining momentum in the new arena wasn't an overriding factor in the decision. "The No. 1 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 with the commitment we have with the new arena. Also it shows a tremendous commitment with me and the basketball decision I made today. Our No. 1 goal is to win and we have to win ballgames and I believe that all of our teams should be able to compete for championships and I believe we have a great opportunity."
  • The criteria for the next hire? "An Auburn man that is the right fit for those current players and those signees that we have that represent them, represent this athletic department, represent the university and the Auburn family. That's what we're going to look for."
  • He was not sure if Auburn would use a search firm. He does have a short list.
  • Head coaching experience is not necessarily a must. "We're going to look at everybody that has an interest in this job," he said. "We're going to find the right fit, the right guy that will represent these guys that we have here and these signees and gives us the best chance to compete."
  • Because Auburn will likely look at candidates that will participate in the NCAA tournament, the process of finding a new coach could take weeks. "And you all know we're going to do this the right way -- The Auburn Way," he said. "And the tournament, we should respect that if they're at their current institution."
  • On why basketball has been such a struggle at Auburn: "There's no one real answer there. You know, basketball in this league is tough. You know, you've got a team that won the West last year and they're last this year. It's just a competitive league. But I just believe we can win championships. I believe we ought to be playing for championships and it doesn't matter to me what the sport is."
  • On the fact that Lebo had a big part in the new arena opening: "You know, there's nothing about this decision that was easy. It doesn't matter what the factors are. When you are going to impact a program and families' lives and children that go to school, my children's lives, there's nothing easy. But at the end of the day, I've got to put personal feelings aside, and I've got to be the athletic director and do what I think is best, first of all, for these student athletes, and then for my current staff and for the countless fans that believe in Auburn and love it. So there's nothing that could have gone a certain way to make this day any easier for me, but particularly for the Lebo family."
  • Jacobs said Auburn will be competitive in the SEC market. That means a contract of at least $1 million a season, we're guessing.

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