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Chattanooga's Lebo accepts Auburn job

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Auburn-Lebo, 3rd Ld-Writethru

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) _ Jeff Lebo has rebuilt two struggling programs and played for one of the most storied teams in college basketball.

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Auburn is his latest challenge.

The 37-year-old former North Carolina star resigned at Chattanooga on Thursday to take over a program that is facing possible NCAA sanctions and has missed the postseason two of the past three years.

``What's very important to me is that we're going to do this the right way,'' said Lebo, whose six-year head coaching career also includes a stint at Tennessee Tech. ``It's going to take some time. That's what I'm used to. That's the way I've been trained.

``I've been fortunate to be around good people both playing and coaching, and I know how to do it the right way.''

Clearly, Auburn is prepared to wait, giving Lebo a seven-year deal worth about $750,000 annually with buyout clauses for both sides, according to interim president Ed Richardson.

Auburn is currently awaiting a verdict from the NCAA on allegations of recruiting violations under Cliff Ellis, who was fired on March 18 and not identified in the allegations.

Richardson said if Auburn is hit with heavy sanctions, a year would be added to Lebo's contract. He didn't specify what would be considered serious enough for that to kick in.

Lebo interviewed with Auburn at the Final Four in San Antonio last week and visited the campus with his wife on Wednesday. He emerged as the front runner after Virginia Commonwealth's Jeff Capel decided Wednesday not to make a second visit with his wife.

UAB's Mike Anderson was also considered a top candidate. Anderson, also up for the job at Miami, withdrew from consideration after refusing Richardson's mandate that all candidates interview with him on campus.

``He's always been in our top three, but he did not want to come here and meet with me unless we offered him a contract first and I didn't want to do that,'' Richardson said.

There was also a conflicting statements on whether Capel was offered the job. Richardson said Lebo was the only coached to receive an offer, but the 29-year-old Capel said Thursday the job was offered before he left Auburn on Monday but he turned it down two days later.

``Coach Lebo when he came in had a much more comprehensive expectation for our program and what it needed and what he wanted to do,'' Richardson said. ``With the two programs he turned around, that's proof there that you can't deny.

``This is the coach. There's not a doubt in my mind about it.''

Lebo won two straight Ohio Valley Conference championships while at Tennessee Tech, which had one winning season in the five years before Lebo's arrival.

Lebo took over Chattanooga without a returning starter two years ago and led the Mocs to a 21-9 record in 2002-03. Chattanooga went 19-11 this season.

Lebo was a four-year starter under Dean Smith at North Carolina, before serving as an assistant under Eddie Fogler at Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

``I think Auburn has got a rising star as a coach in Jeff Lebo,'' Smith said. ``Every place he's been, each time he's had tremendous success as he built programs.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
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