Lefty Driesell

Lefty Driesell
Lefty Driesell
Driesell gives his patented "V-sign" during his first season at Maryland
Sport(s) Basketball
Biographical details
Born December 25, 1931 (1931-12-25) (age 79)
Place of birth Norfolk, Virginia
Playing career
1950–1954 Duke
Position(s) Center
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Granby H.S.
Newport News H.S.
James Madison
Georgia State
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1986–1988 Maryland (asst. AD)
Head coaching record
Overall 786–394
Accomplishments and honors
1 NIT Championship (1972)
1 ACC Tournament (1984)
2 ACC Regular Season (1975, 1980)
5 Southern Regular Season (1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969)
3 Southern Tournament (1966, 1968, 1969)
1 CAA Tournament (1994)
5 CAA Regular Season (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994)
1 Atlantic Sun Tournament (2001)
4 Atlantic Sun Regular Season (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002)
2 ACC Coach of the Year (1975, 1980)
4 Southern Coach of the Year (1963, 1964, 1965, 1966)
2 CAA Coach of the Year (1990, 1992)
1 Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year (2001)
NCAA Award of Valor (1974)
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2007

Charles Grice "Lefty" Driesell (born December 25, 1931) is an American former college basketball coach. He served as the head coach at the University of Maryland, Davidson College, James Madison University, and Georgia State University. During his 41-year coaching career, Driesell led teams from each school to the NCAA Tournament and earned a reputation as a tireless recruiter. He is the only coach to win 100 games at four different colleges.


Early life

He was born on December 25, 1931 in Norfolk, Virginia to Frank Driesell, a jeweler who had emigrated from Germany.[1][2] In the fourth grade, Driesell received the nickname "Lefty" for his handedness.[3] He attended Granby High School in Norfolk and was selected to the All-State basketball team. After graduating high school in 1950, Driesell attended college at Duke University from 1950 to 1954.[1] He played on the basketball team there as a center under head coach Harold Bradley.[4] Driesell graduated from Duke with a bachelor's degree in 1954.[1]

Coaching career

After college in 1954, he took an office job which paid a $6,200 salary ($50,663 adjusted for inflation), but soon quit to return to Granby High School as its junior varsity basketball coach for $3,200 per year ($26,149 adjusted for inflation).[1][2] Driesell was promoted to varsity coach the following year. In 1957, he became the head coach at Newport News High School, where he compiled a 57-game winning streak.[5]


Driesell served as the head coach at Davidson from 1960 to 1969. During his tenure there, his teams won three Southern Conference tournament championships and five regular season championships,[6] and he was named the Southern Conference Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year four consecutive times from 1963 to 1966.[7] Driesell excelled at recruiting at each of his collegiate coaching stops.[8] At Davidson, one of his recruits included Dick Snyder, a first round selection by the Cleveland Cavaliers.[9] During his successful recruitment of college prospect Don Davidson, Driesell told him, "If you come here, I'll put your name on the front [of your jersey]".[8] During his time at Davidson, NC State head coach Everett Case attempted to lure Driesell to join his own coaching staff as an assistant, to which he replied, "Coach, I got a better team than you got. Why would I do that?"[8]


In 1969, he was hired by the University of Maryland. During his introductory press conference, he made the bold statement that he wanted to make Maryland the "UCLA of the East." At that time, UCLA was the nation's dominant college basketball program.[10] While Driesell did not elevate Maryland to UCLA's heights, he did lead the Terrapins to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, a National Invitation Tournament championship, two Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championships, and one Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship.[6] Maryland also attained a No. 2 Associated Press ranking during four consecutive seasons from 1972 to 1976.[6]

Driesell coached the Maryland Terrapins from 1969 to 1986. During his tenure, he successfully recruited numerous exceptional players, including Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams, and Len Bias.[5] In 1974, he signed perhaps the best college prospect of his career, Moses Malone,[5] but lost him to a professional basketball franchise, the Utah Stars, on the day classes were scheduled to begin. Malone was one of the first players to proceed directly from high school into professional basketball.[11]

At Maryland, Driesell began the now nationwide tradition of Midnight Madness. According to longstanding NCAA rules, college basketball teams were not permitted to begin practices until October 15. Driesell traditionally began the first practice with a requirement that his players run one mile in six minutes, but found that the players were too fatigued to practice effectively immediately afterwards. At 12:03 a.m. on October 15, 1971, Driesell held a one-mile run at the track around Byrd Stadium, where a crowd of 1,000 fans had gathered after learning of the unorthodox practice session. The event soon became a tradition to build excitement for the basketball team's upcoming season.[12]

In 1972, Maryland defeated Niagara, 100–69 to secure the National Invitation Tournament championship. Driesell said that the season attained the three goals he had set for the program at the time of his hiring: "national prominence", "national ranking", and "a national championship".[13]

On July 12, 1973, Driesell saved the lives of at least ten children from several burning buildings. He and two other men were surf fishing around midnight in Bethany Beach, Delaware when he saw flames coming from a seashore resort. Driesell broke down a door and rescued several children from the fire that eventually destroyed four townhouses. An eyewitness, Prince George's County circuit court Judge Samuel Meloy, said, "Let's face it, Driesell was a hero. There were no injuries and it was a miracle because firemen didn't come for at least 30 minutes."[14] Driesell said, "Don't build me up as any kind of hero. All we did was try to get the kids out. It was just lucky that we were fishing right in front of the houses."[15] For these actions, Driesell was awarded the NCAA Award of Valor.[16]

In 1984, Driesell led the team to the school's second ACC Tournament Championship.[17] In December 1985, the university gave Driesell a ten-year contract extension. On June 19, 1986, Maryland star Len Bias died of a cocaine-induced heart attack shortly after being drafted by the Boston Celtics as the No. 2 overall selection. In October, a university panel found that the basketball staff had stressed athletics over academics. On October 29, Driesell resigned as head coach and took a position as an assistant athletic director.[5] He also worked as a television analyst during college basketball games.[1] Members of the media widely described Driesell as a scapegoat of chancellor John B. Slaughter and the university administration.[18][19][20][21]

After Maryland

Driesell resumed his coaching career at James Madison University in 1988.[22] He remained the Dukes head coach until 1996. Driesell led James Madison to the NCAA Tournament in 1994. His teams captured five Colonial Athletic Association regular season championships and one tournament championship.[6]

Driesell then coached at Georgia State, which he led to four Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championships and one tournament championship.[6] He retired from coaching on January 3, 2003 in the middle of his 41st season as a head coach. At the time of his retirement, he ranked No. 4 in number of wins for an NCAA Division I coach, behind only Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, and Bob Knight.[2] Driesell is the only basketball coach to win at least 100 games at four different colleges.[23] Driesell led four of his squads to the Elite Eight, but was unable to ever advance to the Final Four. Because of this and his recruiting acumen, Sports Illustrated noted that he has sometimes been—unfairly—viewed as a stellar recruiter but mediocre coach.[2] Driesell's final record was 786–394.[6]

Honors and awards

Driesell earned conference Coach of the Year honors at each of his destinations. He was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year four times at Davidson (1963–1966), twice named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year at Maryland (1975 and 1980), twice named the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year at James Madison (1990 and 1992), and once named the Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year at Georgia State (2001).[24]

On April 2, 2007, Driesell was inducted as a member of the second class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.[25] The University of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame inducted Driesell in 2002.[26] On August 13, 2008, he was inducted as a member of the inaugural class of the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, which honors athletes, coaches, and administrators who made contributions to sports in southeastern Virginia.[27] On May 25, 2011, Driesell was inducted into the Southern Conference Hall of Fame.[8]

On April 2, 2010, the first annual Lefty Driesell Award for the best defensive player in NCAA Division I basketball was bestowed upon its first recipient, Jarvis Varnado of Mississippi State.[28]

Personal life

While a student at Duke University, Driesell eloped with his wife, Joyce on December 14, 1952. The two had met while in the ninth and eighth grades, respectively.[2] The couple has four children. His son, Chuck, was hired as an assistant on the Maryland coaching staff under Gary Williams in 2006,[29] and in 2010, he was named the head basketball coach at The Citadel.[30] The elder Driesell continues to provide coaching advice to his son, but said, "But he's like all children, he doesn't listen."[8] One of his three daughters, Pam, is a pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.[30] Driesell is a Presbyterian, but has often attended churches affiliated with other Christian denominations.[2] In 2003, Driesell retired to Virginia Beach, Virginia with his wife.[31]

Head coaching record

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Davidson Wildcats (Southern) (1960–1969)
1960-1961 Davidson 9-14 2-10 9th
1961-1962 Davidson 14-11 5-6 5th
1962-1963 Davidson 20-7 8-3 2nd
1963-1964 Davidson 22-4 9-2 1st
1964-1965 Davidson 24-2 12-0 1st
1965-1966 Davidson 21-7 11-1 1st NCAA Sweet 16
1966-1967 Davidson 15-12 8-4 2nd
1967-1968 Davidson 24-5 9-1 1st NCAA Elite 8
1968-1969 Davidson 27-3 9-0 1st NCAA Elite 8
Davidson: 176-65 73-27
Maryland Terrapins (ACC) (1969–1986)
1969-1970 Maryland 13-13 5-9 6th
1970-1971 Maryland 14-12 5-9 T-6th
1971-1972 Maryland 27-5 8-4 3rd NIT Championship
1972-1973 Maryland 23-7 7-5 T-2nd NCAA Elite 8
1973-1974 Maryland 23-5 9-3 T-2nd
1974-1975 Maryland 24-5 10-2 1st NCAA Elite 8
1975-1976 Maryland 22-6 7-5 T-2nd
1976-1977 Maryland 19-8 7-5 4th
1977-1978 Maryland 15-13 3-9 T-6th
1978-1979 Maryland 19-11 6-6 4th NIT 2nd Round
1979-1980 Maryland 24-7 11-3 1st NCAA Sweet 16
1980-1981 Maryland 21-10 8-6 4th NCAA 2nd Round
1981-1982 Maryland 16-13 5-9 5th NIT 2nd Round
1982-1983 Maryland 20-10 8-6 T-3rd NCAA 2nd Round
1983-1984 Maryland 24-8 9-5 2nd NCAA Sweet 16
1984-1985 Maryland 25-12 8-6 T-4th NCAA Sweet 16
1985-1986 Maryland 19-14 6-8 6th NCAA 2nd Round
Maryland: 348-159 122-100
James Madison Dukes (Colonial Athletic Association) (1988–1997)
1988-1989 James Madison 16-14 6-8 T-5th
1989-1990 James Madison 20-11 11-3 1st NIT 1st Round
1990-1991 James Madison 19-10 12-2 1st NIT 1st Round
1991-1992 James Madison 21-11 12-2 T-1st NIT 1st Round
1992-1993 James Madison 21-9 11-3 T-1st NIT 1st Round
1993-1994 James Madison 20-10 10-4 T-1st NCAA 1st Round
1994-1995 James Madison 16-13 9-5 3rd
1995-1996 James Madison 10-20 6-10 T-5th
1996-1997 James Madison 16-13 8-8 T-5th
James Madison: 159-111 85-45
Georgia State Panthers (Trans America/Atlantic Sun) (1997–2003)
1997-1998 Georgia State 16-12 11-5 1st [West]
1998-1999 Georgia State 17-13 11-5 3rd
1999-2000 Georgia State 17-12 13-5 T-1st
2000-2001 Georgia State 29-5 16-2 1st NCAA 2nd Round
2001-2002 Georgia State 20-11 14-6 T-1st NIT Opening Round
2002-2003 Georgia State 4-6
Georgia State: 103-59 65-23
Total: 786-394

      National Champion         Conference Regular Season Champion         Conference Tournament Champion
      Conference Regular Season & Conference Tournament Champion       Conference Division Champion


  1. ^ a b c d e Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary, p. 119, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, ISBN 0313309523.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Last Of The Lefties; After four memorable decades of college coaching, Lefty Driesell abruptly calls it quits, Sports Illustrated, January 13, 2003.
  3. ^ Left Is All Right; Everything from staircases to scissors gives the advantage to the dextral. So in a world designed with the right hand in mind, why is it that so many lefties are great athletes?, Sports Illustrated, March 9, 2005.
  4. ^ Charles "Lefty" Driesell, Duke University, December 14, 2005.
  5. ^ a b c d Milestones in Driesell's Career, The Washington Post, October 30, 1986.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lefty Driesell Coaching Record, Sports Reference, retrieved June 8, 2011.
  7. ^ Driesell Named SC Coach of the Year 4th Straight Time, Herald-Journal, March 17, 1966.
  8. ^ a b c d e Lefty Driesell among six inducted, ESPN, March 25, 2011.
  9. ^ Paul McMullen, Maryland Basketball: Tales from Cole Field House, p. 50, JHU Press, 2002, ISBN 0801872219.
  10. ^ Lefty Driesell's Homage to John Wooden: 'The UCLA of the East', AOL News, June 5, 2010.
  11. ^ Bounding Into Prominence; Moses Malone jumped from high school to the pros, where he has become the game's top rebounder, Sports Illustrated, February 19, 1979.
  12. ^ He made midnight a time for madness; The college basketball tradition that resumes tonight began in 1971 with Maryland's Lefty Driesell, St. Petersburg Times, October 13, 2006.
  13. ^ Terps attain two of their three goals set by coach Driesell, The Free Lance-Star, March 27, 1972.
  14. ^ Driesell lauded for heroism, The Baltimore Sun, December 28, 1973.
  15. ^ Driesell To The Rescue, The Milwaukee Journal, July 21, 1973.
  16. ^ NCAA Award of Valor Recipients, National Collegiate Athletic Association, retrieved June 4, 2011.
  17. ^ Driesell Keeps Perspective, Star-News, March 10, 1984.
  18. ^ Lefty is a scapegoat, The Robesonian, November 6, 1986.
  19. ^ SPORTS WORLD SPECIALS; Driesell Reflects, The New York Times, June 8, 1987.
  20. ^ What Did Driesell Do Wrong?, Schenectady Gazette, November 7, 1986.
  21. ^ Take goat horns off Lefty, Gainesville Sun, June 16, 1987.
  22. ^ Comeback for Lefty Driesell: New Coach at James Madison, The Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1988.
  23. ^ KENT BAZEMORE WINS THE 2011 LEFTY DRIESELL AWARD, CollegeInsider.com, April 1, 2011.
  24. ^ Atlantic Sun Recordbook (PDF), Atlantic Sun Conference, p. 6, 2010.
  25. ^ Class of 2007, The College Basketball Experience at Sprint Center, retrieved June 4, 2011.
  26. ^ University of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame: All-Time Inductees, University of Maryland, retrieved June 12, 2009.
  27. ^ Portsmouth sports legend's loyalty to the city makes him an ace among men, The Virginian-Pilot, August 13, 2008.
  28. ^ Jarvis Varnado Wins Driesell Award, My Fox Memphis, April 2, 2010.
  29. ^ Eric Prisbell, C. Driesell is hired as Maryland assistant, The Washington Post, June 3, 2006.
  30. ^ a b Lefty Driesell's legacy lives on in daughter Pam, son Chuck, The Atlanta Constitution Journal, November 29, 2010.
  31. ^ Driesell's follow-up could be a shot at scouting for Hawks, The Baltimore Sun, January 11, 2003.

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