Lefty Driesell, folksy, fiery coach who put Maryland on college basketball's map, dies at 92

Driesell finished with 786 victories over parts of five decades and was the first coach to win more than 100 games at four NCAA Division I schools

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Lefty Driesell, the coach whose folksy drawl belied a fiery on-court demeanor that put Maryland on the college basketball map and enabled him to rebuild several struggling programs, died Saturday. He was 92.

Maryland announced Driesell's death. His grandson, Ty Anderson, told The Washington Post that Driesell died at his home in Virginia Beach.

Driesell finished with 786 victories over parts of five decades and was the first coach to win more than 100 games at four NCAA Division I schools. He started at Davidson in 1960 before bringing Maryland into national prominence from 1969-86, a stay that ended with the cocaine-induced death of All-American Len Bias.

Driesell then won five regular-season conference titles over nine seasons at James Madison and finished with a successful run at Georgia State from 1997 to 2003.

“His contributions to the game go way beyond wins and losses, and he won a lot," former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Driesell finally made the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. "It’s an honor he’s deserved for a long time.”

The University of Maryland remembered the legendary Lefty Driesell after he passed away Saturday at the age of 92. Driesell was an icon at the University of Maryland. News4's Dominique Moody was at XFINITY Center, where the Terps paid him a tribute during the game.

Driesell launched the college basketball tradition known as Midnight Madness on Oct. 15, 1971. At three minutes after midnight on the first day of practice as sanctioned by the NCAA, Driesell had his players take a mandatory mile run on the track inside the Maryland football stadium.

The lighting was provided by the headlights of a few cars parked at one end of the stadium. The motivation came from Driesell's prodding and the estimated 800 students who gathered to watch the unpublicized event.

“I’ve done a lot of crazy things to get attention, but that wasn’t one of them,” Driesell said years later. “I was just trying to get an early jump on practice. I had no idea what it was going to lead to.”

Driesell also helped knock down racial barriers in the college game. He made George Raveling the first Black coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference by hiring him as an assistant in 1969. Driesell’s effort to recruit Charlie Scott to play at Davidson helped make the future NBA star become the first African American scholarship athlete to attend North Carolina.

Scott initially committed to Davidson before choosing UNC but acknowledged that Driesell paved the way.

“I think if there had never been a Lefty Driesell, there would never have been a Charlie Scott attending North Carolina,” said Scott, who joined the Hall of Fame in 2018 with Driesell. "My commitment to go to Davidson really opened up all the other schools in the recruiting process.”

Race played no factor in Driesell's effort to recruit the best players.

"He did so many great things in marketing the game and opened up so many doors for many African Americans players and coaches like myself," said Len Elmore, who played for Driesell at Maryland from 1971-74. “Lefty was a trailblazer and an innovator.”

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