Michael Perry, Kentrell Barkley & B.J. Tyson React to Lebo's Exit
GREENVILLE, N.C. - With the resignation of ECU head basketball coach Jeff Lebo Wednesday afternoon, lead assistant coach Michael Perry moves back into the hot seat as the interim head basketball coach for 2-4 ECU.
Perry stepped in and coached in fourteen games on an interim basis last season while Lebo was out during his hip surgery and recovery.
Lebo's decision to step down came on short notice and a 4:30 p.m. press conference was called to allow both Lebo and ECU athletic director Jeff Compher to deliver the news.
Meanwhile, basketball practice was going on at Minges Coliseum where PI caught up with Perry afterward to get his reaction to the news.
"Surprise obviously. You step into a situation like this there are a lot of things you have to take into consideration. Obviously you think about the kids first of all. Those young men and the transition they're going to have to experience at this time," Perry said, " I went through it as a player and obviously several times as a coach as an acting coach with head coach responsibilities and also as an interim coach. I've done them all and worn those hats so I'm more than prepared for it."
He talked about the first order of business with a practice scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and a game to prepare for against UNC-Wilmington tomorrow night. The Seahawks enter at 2-3 having lost three of their last four games including most recently an 79-70 loss to Valparaiso in the Savannah Invitational.
"The first thing you want to do is reflect, but we don't have much time because the priority at hand is to make sure your kids have a good understanding and are on a good footing," said Perry, "You also have to keep in mind that in 24 hours you've got an opponent who couldn't care less about what happened here. They're coming in here to try to beat you."
Perry talked about what Lebo told him after passing the baton to him on Wednesday.
"He said hey man I know you're capable of doing the job. Just go out there and coach them hard and I know they'll play for you," said Perry, "He was very encouraging. As I told him, he's a good basketball coach. Probably sometimes he doesn't get the due that he deserves. I'm a better basketball coach personally having worked with him."
Keeping things simple is the approach in the early stages of the Michael Perry regime and he outlined his immediate plan of action.
"Right now the first priority is to play hard and that's what we're going to do is play hard and we're going to play smart," Perry told PirateIllustrated.com, "Those are the two things we're really going to dial in and focus on."
"Today they responded really well. I was really pleased with their response. You always have a leadership core and those guys came to me and said coach, I'm with you. When you have a group like that who has already been in the trenches with you it makes it somewhat easier."
ECU guard B.J. Tyson is the defacto leader of this Pirate bunch and he gave his reaction to the news after today's practice ended at dinner time on Wednesday.
"I was very surprised. It hit me right in the heart. I've been with Coach Lebo since I was a freshman which was in 2013. He was a man who gave me that chance when I thought I didn't have nothing, so it was very tough for me," Tyson said, "Now we've got Coach Perry and we've got to get ready for the game tomorrow. I'm praying for whatever happens with Coach Lebo and I love him to death."
Tyson said it caught the team by surprise but they knew something was up because Lebo was dressed in a suit.
"You can tell it was pretty tough because it shocked everybody in the film room, but we came out here and we had a good practice," Tyson told PirateIllustrated.com, "We kind of put it behind us in the back of our heads until further notice, but once you get out on the court you start to think about it a lot more. I'm sure our guys - it hurt them. It hit them pretty hard. We've got a game to focus on and my heart goes out to Coach Lebo and his family."
For Kentrell Barkley, the news was rather sudden and he talked about his reaction after finding out that Coach Lebo had decided to resign.
"It was unexpected and out of nowhere. It sounds like it's the best situation for him to move on and I guess live his life a little and just take some time off," Barkley told PI, "I'm disturbed by the news, but we have to keep moving forward and try to get this basketball program turned in another direction. That's my focus right now and we have a game tomorrow. I hope we can come out and play hard, do the things we do well and get a W tomorrow."
Lebo departs as one of only three coaches in school history to lead the program for more than six seasons joining Howard Porter, who coached the team for 12 seasons (1947-59) and Tom Quinn who led the Pirates’ transition to Division I for eight years (1966-74).
Catch the entire post practice interview with Coach Michael Perry along with ECU players B.J. Tyson and Kentrell Barkley giving their reaction to Coach Lebo's departure.