Lefty leaves the game

 

 

Dick Vitale – ESPN – January 3rd, 2016

 

When you talk about legends and icons in the game of college basketball, you’d better include one Charles “Lefty” Driesell.

 

I was saddened by the news that Lefty decided to step down after winning 785 games during his illustrious collegiate career. Georgia State is 4-6 this season, and the left-hander decided to move on to make way for assistant coach Mike Perry, who served Driesell during his entire stint at Georgia State.

 

Driesell has been a winner everywhere he’s been. He is the only coach to win 100 or more games at four different schools. That’s a pretty incredible feat when you think about it. He also took all four of those schools to the NCAA Tournament (Jim Harrick and Eddie Sutton are the only others to lead four schools to the Big Dance).

 

Driesell began his Division I head coaching career at Davidson College back in 1960. He took that little college and led them into national prominence with the likes of future Virginia coach and athletic director Terry Holland and Fred Hetzel. He made a big splash with his unbelievable enthusiasm, energy and spirit — which made him so unique.

 

Then Driesell headed to College Park, Maryland, to a place he referred to as the UCLA of the East. The Terps didn’t quite become UCLA, but there’s no doubt that he created a basketball frenzy at Cole Field House. When the left-hander walked in, it was bedlam, baby! He rolled out some outstanding players over the years en route to 348 W’s as Maryland’s coach.

 

Unfortunately, back then, many of his solid squads did not have the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament because of the success at North Carolina, N.C. State and Duke. But Lefty still made an imprint at Maryland.

 

His recruiting was legendary. Remember, recruiting was a lot different back then before the internet, and Driesell’s efforts were incredible. All you had to do is sit down and talk to some of his former assistants — George Raveling, Joey Harrington and the late Jim Maloney — who went through newspapers and spent hours studying and analyzing the high school scene.

 

Maryland got future congressman and fomer hoops great, Tom McMillen to wear the Terrapin uniform. It looked like he was heading to North Carolina, but Driesell won the battle.

 

Because of Driesell, we have Midnight Madness. In an effort to gain notoriety and exposure, Driesell brought his team out for midnight practices. And by getting his team to think and focus on basketball, it provided a winning edge.

 

And who could forget when Lefty won his first ACC tournament title with the late Lenny Bias playing a pivotal role? When Driesell took the trophy, he said he was going to put it on the hood of his car and ride through the Carolina Triangle. He finally led the Terps to the ACC tournament!

 

Overall, Driesell’s teams earned 13 NCAA berths and eight trips to the NIT.
Following the tragic passing of Bias, Lefty went to James Madison and proved his career wasn’t over after leaving Maryland. At James Madison, he showed he had a special way of getting his teams to compete with tenacity, winning 159 games in close to a decade on the sidelines.

 

Then, at Georgia State, he took a unheralded program to an NCAA win over Wisconsin in 2001 before falling against his former employer, Maryland, in a second-round clash.

 

Overall, Driesell’s teams earned 13 NCAA berths and eight trips to the NIT.

 

Perhaps what I love most about Lefty is that he always has a smile on his face. While coaching, he was always really excited about the game. To him, that game was the biggest one in America; he’d hype it and play it up, treating it in a special way. And his his passion and love for what he was doing was contagious to the players around him.

 

Of course there were critics who questioned his X and O ability. But let me tell you something: you don’t win 785 games without understanding what a 2-3 zone, a 3-2 zone, a 2-1-2 zone, man-to-man defense, multiple defenses, matchup defenses, and offensive systems that are varied.

 

And while Driesell had an understanding of the game, what made him a winning coach was the way he understood people. His gift to communicate; he mastered the art of getting his players to respond and understand his concepts. They played with feeling and emotion — and that my friends is half the battle.

 

Perhaps there is at least person who’s happy about his decision to retire, his wife Joyce. There will be no more road trips and she will have her husband around to enjoy life.

 

Charles “Lefty” Driesell, you are going to be missed in the world of college basketball big time! Trust me, you won’t be forgotten.

 

Thanks for the memories … there are too many to list. Most of all, thanks for your friendship.

 

Original Article