Former University of Maryland head coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
It’s about time.
Driesell, a former Silver Spring resident, was honored over the weekend with the announcement of the crowning achievement of his coaching career.
The father of Springbrook High School graduate Chuck Driesell, Lefty will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Sept. 7 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“He deserves it,” said Rockville High School graduate Brian Howard, who played at Georgia Tech in the 1980s, “How can he not be in the Hall of Fame?”
Driesell has spent four decades coaching college basketball including 17 seasons at Maryland where he coached numerous All-Americans.
Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams, Adrian Branch and Len Bias were among Driesell’s more notable players who helped put the Maryland basketball program on the national map.
During his introductory press conference in 1969, Driesell stated that he wanted to make Maryland the “UCLA of the East.”
Under Driesell’s leadership, Maryland became a force to be reckoned with in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He compiled a 348-159 record during his tenure in College Park and he’s also credited with generating the idea for the nation’s first “Midnight Madness.”
“I’ve always believed Lefty has belonged in the Hall of Fame,” said Elmore. “He’s won so many games at so many different places, he could have been selected not only as a coach, but also as a contributor. He did so many great things in marketing the game and opened up so many doors for many African-American players and coaches like myself. He hired the first African-American assistant coach in the ACC in George Raveling. And on my team, there were three African-American starters at the time. Lefty was a trailblazer and an innovator; this is very well deserved. Lefty taught us so much and his messages and his lessons still stay with us to this day.”
Besides Maryland, Driesell also coached at Davidson, James Madison and Georgia State. At each stop in his coaching career, Driesell found time to recruit Montgomery County student-athletes.
He compiled a 176-65 record at Davidson where he recruited Landon’s Fred Hetzel who blossomed into an All-American and became the top overall selection in the 1965 NBA Draft.
“Lefty is the greatest turnaround coach in college basketball history,” said McMillen. “He took four struggling programs and made them all winners. It is a very well-deserved honor for Lefty to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Driesell is the only coach to win 100 games at four different schools and led them all to the NCAA Tournament. He’s also the only individual to be named Coach of the Year in four different conferences.
Lefty’s popularity on campus also helped lure Blair’s Brian Magid and Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s Mark Karver to Maryland and Springbrook’s Darren McLinton to James Madison. He was the ultimate players’ coach.
“When I started calling Maryland’s games in 1979, Lefty Driesell was kind of a John Wayne character in my eyes,” recalled Johnny Holliday, Maryland’s longtime radio play-by-play announcer. “I was in awe of doing the games for this guy because of his reputation and what he had done at Maryland. The more I got to know him and the more I got to do the games with him, I realized what a terrific coach we had and what an outstanding individual he was. I think this honor is long overdue, but I’m so happy that Lefty will now be recognized in his rightful place among the greats of the game of basketball. He put Maryland basketball on the map and brought so much to this area. I’m thrilled to have worked alongside him.”
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