3 worst head coach hires in Auburn basketball history

Bruce Pearl has arguably turned Auburn into a temporary basketball school, and is going for his second SEC Tournament title, something that seemed unthinkable while Auburn was wallowing at the bottom of the conference under these three head coaches.

Auburn Tigers head coach Tony Barbee
Auburn Tigers head coach Tony Barbee / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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When Bruce Pearl takes the Auburn Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season, he’ll equal Sonny Smith for most March Madness appearances for a head coach at Auburn. Smith took the Tigers to their first tournament in 1984 with Charles Barkley and made five straight from ‘84 to 1988. 

Most of Auburn’s history is on the football field, but currently, Pearl has Auburn looking like a basketball school. The Tigers will be in contention to win the SEC Tournament, which hasn’t happened since 2019 with Bryce Brown, Jared Harper, and Chuma Okeke. That year, Pearl took the Tigers to the final four for the first time in history cemented Pearl as the best coach in Auburn basketball history. 

On the flip side of that coin, these are the worst coaches in program history, the ones responsible for much of the school’s long droughts between tournament berths. 

. Jeff Lebo. . 525. player. Record: 96-93. 2004-10. Jeff Lebo. 3. Jeff Lebo

Jeff Lebo was hired from Chattanooga to replace Cliff Ellis, who had taken Auburn to the tournament in three of his 10 seasons at the helm. Lebo arrived with high hopes and an upstart coach familiar with the south from his time at Chattanooga and Tennessee Tech before that. 

However, his previous success did not transfer to the SEC. It took Lebo three years to finally finish with a winning record, going 17-15 in 2006-07, but was still 7-9 in conference play that year. Finally, in 2008-09, Lebo went 24-12 and 10-6 in SEC play with a roster devoid of NBA talent. 

Naturally, since he was unable to recruit top talent to Auburn the program cratered after that winning effort with a 15-17 season in 2009-2010 and Lebo was fired with three years remaining on his contract and a $1.5 million buyout.