Longtime Maryland men’s basketball coach Lefty Driesell dies at 92, school says


Legendary Maryland men’s basketball coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell, who was known for his fiery on-court persona that helped lift the Terrapins in the national spotlight, died. He was 92.

The university confirmed Driesell’s passing on Saturday. He died at his home in Virginia Beach.

Maryland’s basketball team was one of several struggling programs that Driesell helped turn around after he arrived on campus. He also coached at Davidson, James Madison, and Georgia State. He won 100 or more games at each of those stops, but his longest and most memorable run happened in College Park, Maryland.

Driesell spent the 1969-86 seasons on the Maryland baseline, finishing his impressive stint with 348 wins.

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Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 enshrinee Charles Grice Lefty Driesell speaks during the 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on September 7, 2018 in Springfield, Massachusetts.  (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Terrapins advanced to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament eight times with Driesell at the helm. The Terrapins also won the 1972 NIT Championship and 1984 ACC Tournament championship under Driesell’s guidance.

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Maryland athletic director Damon Evans described Driesell as a “transcendent figure.”

“Lefty Driesell was a transcendent figure in college basketball and the man who put Maryland basketball on the map,” Evans said in a statement. 

“A Hall of Famer, Lefty was an innovator, a man who was ahead of his time from his coaching on the court to his marketing off the court. From starting Midnight Madness to nationally-televised games with sold out Cole Field House crowds, Lefty did it all. … We are saddened to hear of his passing and send our condolences to his entire family and community of friends. His memory will be forever etched in Maryland basketball history.”

Driesell stopped coaching at Maryland in 1986, shortly after star player Len Bias died following a drug overdose. Driesell was cleared of any wrongdoing, but he was essentially stripped of his coaching duties. After about two years of handling various athletic department duties, Driesell decided to leave College Park in 1988. He was then named the head coach at James Madison.

Driesell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, something that legendary Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said was a long time coming.

“His contributions to the game go way beyond wins and losses, and he won a lot,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s an honor he’s deserved for a long time.”

Coach Lefty Driesell waves

Former Maryland head coach Lefty Driesell waves to the crowd during a timeout against Purdue on February 6, 2016 in College Park, MD.  (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Driesell’s got his first chance to coach at the college basketball level in 1960, when he was named the head coach at Davidson. The Wildcats won eight Southern Conference titles under Driesell.

All four of the college basketball teams that Driesell coached made at least one appearance in the NCAA Tournament, with Maryland and Davidson advancing to the Elite Eight two times. He is also credited with creating the college basketball tradition known as Midnight Madness, which started in 1971. 

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Maryland honored Driesell in January during a home game against Michigan State. Prior to coaching, Driesell was a standout basketball player in the early 1950s at Duke.

Driesell is survived by four children. Driesell’s son Chuck played for his father at Maryland from 1981-85. Chuck later became an assistant coach under his dad at James Madison.

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