Former JMU men’s basketball coach and University of Maryland legend Charles Grice “Lefty” Driesell will be inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday, as reported by the Washington Post and confirmed by two anonymous Hall of Famers. Driesell is already a member of 15 other halls of fame, but induction into the Naismith is considered the top honor for a basketball player or coach. Acceptance into the Hall of Fame is something Driesell has been looking forward to for awhile, as he said in an interview with the Virginian-Pilot last week.
Driesell’s coaching career began at Davidson in 1960, where he led the Wildcats to three Southern Conference titles and won four consecutive Southern Conference Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year awards from 1963-66.
Driesell then took over at Maryland, where he led the Terrapins to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and one NIT title. During his time at Maryland, Driesell became the first head coach to be awarded the NCAA Award of Valor, after saving the lives of at least 10 children in multiple burning buildings on July 12, 1973. Drielsell’s tenure as head coach at Maryland ended after the death of Len Bias, due to a cocaine overdose after his selection by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA Draft.
After a couple of years as a television commentator and Maryland assistant athletic director, Driesell took the job as head coach of the Dukes in 1988, where he immediately brought the school to the forefront of the national discussion “simply by being himself,” as the Los Angeles Times reported in 1989. Driesell coached future JMU and current Virginia Tech women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks who, in 1988 told The Breeze, “He's brought a lot of excitement back to the school. Basketball is a real hot item. Everybody's talking about basketball, so I'm looking forward to playing. With him coming, it's going to be great playing for him with the packed crowds.”
Driesell would lead the team to five CAA regular season championships and a CAA tournament championship in 1994, leading to an NCAA Tournament appearance in which the 14-seeded Dukes fell to the third-seeded University of Florida by two points. During his time as head coach at JMU, Lefty Driesell won two CAA Coach of the Year awards and led the team to a 159-111 record from 1988 to 1997.
Driesell would finish his coaching career at Georgia State University, where he retired in 2003. In a 1988 issue of The Breeze, Lefty was quoted saying, "When I got out of coaching a couple years ago, people kept asking me if I would get back into coaching. I said if I could find a university that I think I can sell academically, that's an outstanding academic institution, that I think could win the national championship, I might do it. I think I found that place, and I'm delighted to be here."
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