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Lebo ready to roll after last season’s hip surgery

GREENVILLE — East Carolina is back and ready for the 2017-2018 basketball season.

That includes coach Jeff Lebo. He needed hip surgery and was sidelined during the final stretch of the Pirates’ last season.

“I feel great,” he said. “I was about six months out from the surgery where I really started to feel good. Thank God for modern medicine”.

Lebo’s last game as head coach was Jan. 15 of last year against the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Pirates fell 74-58. A few games prior to his leave, Lebo was named East Carolina’s winningest coach, surpassing Tom Quinn’s 102 victories since the program’s start in 1965 for the Division I era.

Laughing, Lebo said, “I really don’t think about that too much. I’m just enjoying the process. I’ve been around the game my whole life. I love working with the kids. They keep me young. I just love East Carolina and I love working with these guys every day.”

Lebo appointed one of his assistant coaches, Michael Perry, as acting head coach while he was out for his hip replacement surgery. Perry, a former head coach at Georgia State, is entering his 11th season as an assistant coach with the Pirates.

Perry was a major facilitator in the growth of the Georgia State basketball program and helped transition the university from the Atlantic Sun Conference into the Colonial Athletic Association.

For Lebo, making Perry the acting head coach was an easy decision.

“I went with Mike because he had been a head coach before so he’s a pretty experienced guy. He’s been in that seat before and that was probably the final factor because of his history with basketball,” Lebo said.

Even though Lebo took a step back and let Perry take the wheel, he is eager to get back out on the court this Sunday.

“I’ve been at it so I feel pretty good. I’ve been happy with the guys and I can move and I’m not in pain constantly. So that feels wonderful to me,” Lebo said.

He isn’t the only one eager about his return. Senior guard B.J. Tyson is glad to have the Pirates’ bench boss back in action.

“He’s been a big help. You can kind of tell that, with his hip being replaced, he’s getting involved a little bit more than before,” Tyson said. “He’s preparing us really well with not only himself but with the new assistant coaches, coach (Doug) Wojcik, coach Perry, and coach (Ken) Potosnak. They’ve all been a big help, but Lebo has really dialed in and helped us out.”

Neither Tyson nor junior Kentrell Barkley think that the coaching shift did not affect the team communication at all.

It seems like both returning Pirates and Lebo were ready to get out on the court with a fresh mentality.

“We want to continue to build. We know this league is terrific and we know it’s probably going to be as strong as it has ever been,” Lebo said. “It’s exciting for our program, but means very difficult challenges ahead of us.”