ECU’s Lebo makes good first impression|New coach seeks to right Pirate’s ship

Published 11:07 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES,, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE – There is no telling how good or bad the Pirates basketball season will go, but if it’s anything like Jeff Lebo’s first media day at East Carolina than fans should expect to be pleased.
Lebo, a former Tar Heel who played under Dean Smith, is entering his 13th season as a head coach and said all the right things leading into his first season with the Pirates.
The former Auburn skipper did not make and grand predictions or statements, but instead spoke about the need for his players to be more hungry in their desire for a winning season and the importance of raised self expectations.
“I have been pleased with the kids’ attitude to date. They have worked awfully hard. I have been surprised at their ability to pick up things even though we have kept it pretty simple so far,” Lebo said. “I think there is a hunger there. There is a hunger to win and a hunger to get better. There is a hunger for some pride in our program and to have some respect. It’s easy to have hunger now but we are going to find out about how much we really have it when the season starts.”
Lebo, who has been able to work with his players in limited dosages leading up to Thursday, said now is the time for his players to show what they are made of.
“The hour workouts that we have had have been pretty easy for them to get through, but now will come a test for them to go through it consistently every single day for two-and-a-half hours of the grind of practice. Can they do that? Can they stay healthy? Can they make it through constantly at practice? That will be a big test here as we start,” Lebo said.
Upon his hiring, East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland dubbed Lebo a “program tuner” after seeing him raise the profile of Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga and Auburn. In each Lebo has started out with the cards stacked against him and has managed at least one 20-win season at each destination.
Lebo said that the one constant at each one of those places has been the effort giving by his team.
“I don’t know if there is a secret to anything but I tell my guys all the time that ‘I don’t coach effort,’” Lebo said. “If you watch my teams play the one thing that has been universal … is that we will play hard. That is something I want this team to understand is that we will play hard every night. I know playing hard doesn’t guarantee that you will win games but I know if you don’t you will lose a lot.”
Lebo said one key is getting each player to give a full contribution.
“There are a lot of things that you can do to help your basketball team that require no talent, and we got some talented guys, but we have to learn about chemistry and find our roles and get our kids to understand that all those roles are important,” Lebo said. “There is a fine line between being 10-21 and 21-10. There will be about 10 to 15 games that we will have throughout the course of the season that we will be plus or minus six points with five minutes to go in the game. How we handle those five minutes will dictate what our record will be in the end.”
Young and restless
East Carolina’s preseason all-Conference USA guard Brock Young is still recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee that he sustained during a basketball in which the school was entertaining a recruit but is raring to get back on the court.
“We had a recruit in for the weekend and we were playing pickup game at North Campus Crossing a few weeks ago,” Young said. “I had surgery about two weeks ago … It’s nothing that I wanted going into my senior year … but I’ll be ready to go for the opening game.”