Charles "Lefty" Driesell (born December 25, 1931) is a retired college basketball coach. Driesell grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, where he attended Granby High School. The famous left-hander attended Duke University from 1950 to 1954, playing basketball under coach Harold Bradley.
He began his coaching career as a junior varsity coach at Granby High School in Norfolk in 1954, and then took over as varsity coach the next year. In 1957 he took a head coaching job at Newport News High School, where his teams built a 57-game winning streak.
Driesell's first college head-coaching job was with Davidson College from 1960 to 1969. During his tenure there, he won the Southern Conference championship three times. In 1969, he was hired by the University of Maryland. It was during his introductory press conference that he made the bold statement that he wanted to make Maryland the "UCLA of the East." UCLA was the dominant college basketball program at the time.
Driesell coached the University of Maryland Terrapins from 1969 to 1986. During his tenure, the basketball team had such star players as Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams, and Len Bias. In 1974 he signed high school star Moses Malone, but lost him to professional basketball, the Utah Stars, just before classes began. Moses was one of the first basketball players to jump directly from high school into the professional leagues.
Coach Driesell is also credited with starting the nationwide tradition of Midnight Madness in 1971, which began with the idea of getting the school excited for the team and the upcoming basketball season, and resulted in an event that involved having the team being introduced and practicing at midnight of the first day the team is allowed to begin practice during the school year. In 1972, his team won the National Invitation Tournament, and in 1984 he led the team to their second-ever ACC Tournament Championship. Unfortunately, his coaching career at Maryland ended on a sour note when he was forced to resign after the drug-related death of his star player, Len Bias, as well as amid charges of academic problems and drug use among the athletes, and allegations that he hindered police inquiry into Bias' death.
On July 12, 1973 Driesell was credited with saving the lives of at least 10 children from burning buildings. He and two other men were surf fishing around midnight in Bethany Beach, Delaware when Driesell spotted flames shooting from a townhouse complex behind them. Driesell broke down a door and began getting children out. The fire destroyed four townhouses. Judge Samuel Meloy commented. "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." For these actions, Driesell was awarded the NCAA Award of Valor.
He was also punched in the face by University of South Carolina forward John Ribock after a fight broke out between the Gamecocks and Terps. When asked about the incident, USC coach Frank McGuire said Driesell punched himself in the face.
After leaving Maryland, Driesell went on to coach the James Madison Dukes until 1996. In 1994 he took James Madison University to the NCAA tournament and almost every season he won conference title. After Driesell's departure from James Madison, the quality of JMU basketball plummeted and had not recovered until Matt Brady took over as coach for the 2008-2009 season. His next job was at Georgia State Panthers, where he retired on January 3, 2003 in the middle of his 41st season of coaching. His final coaching record in the NCAA was 786–394.
His son, Chuck, was hired in 2006 as an assistant coach by the University of Maryland. Lefty Driesell currently resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Honors and Awards
On April 2, 2007, Driesell was named to the second class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The other new members include Phog Allen of Kansas University, Adolph Rupp of the University of Kentucky, Henry Iba of Oklahoma State University, John McLendon of Tennessee State, Guy Lewis of the University of Houston and Norm Stewart of the University of Missouri. The committee also added former Duke coach Vic Bubas for his contributions to the game.
On Aug. 13, 2008, he was part of the inaugural class to be inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, honoring athletes, coaches and administrators who made contributions to sports in Southeastern Virginia