- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

It was just like the old days at the University of Maryland last night as Lefty Driesell brought down the house.

In his second official visit to Maryland since his forced 1986 resignation in the wake of former star Len Bias' cocaine-induced death on campus that summer, the former basketball coach was inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame to a long and loud standing ovation. As Johnny Holliday, the voice of the Terps, said in the introductory video, it was, "Welcome home, Coach Driesell."

Driesell, now coach at Georgia State, didn't get as emotional as fellow inductee Gene Hiser. Not the ol' Lefthander. And not after a parade of student-athletes and All-Americans had been recognized during a typically lengthy awards ceremony.

"We've got to get this going. It's too serious," the 70-year-old Driesell began in his typical Tidewater drawl before launching into a riff on the bookishness of his first star, Rhodes scholar/congressman Tom McMillen.

Driesell vowed to turn the sleepy Maryland program into the "UCLA of the East" when he was hired from Davidson by athletic director Jim Kehoe in 1969. His first recruit was Howard White, who along with McMillen and original assistants George Raveling and Joe Harrington, was on hand last night.

"We told Howard, 'When we win the national championship, we're going to ride down Pennsylvania Avenue in a convertible and the president will be in there and everyone will be saying, 'Who is that riding with Howard?'" Driesell said as the crowd at the University Inn and Conference Center roared.

Driesell's Terps never won that national title, but as Holliday said in the video, "Lefty put Maryland basketball on the map." Driesell made Cole Field House a hotspot and Maryland basketball a happening. He would stride onto the floor just before tipoff with his hands thrust upward in a pair of "V for Victory" signals. The Terps had such All-Americans as McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams and Bias, but Driesell was usually the focal point as he hitched up his pants, stomped his feet and fussed at the officials who were giving nemesis Dean Smith of North Carolina the better calls.

Driesell averaged 20 victories during his 17 seasons and took the Terps to eight NCAA tournaments. After McMillen, Driesell recruited two other national high school players of the year: King, who also was inducted last night, and Moses Malone, who signed with the ABA's Utah Stars before playing for the Terps.

"I spent 17 years of my life at the University of Maryland, 17 great years, and I want to thank all the fans who supported us," Driesell said. "I'm humbled by this award. People wanted to know why I hadn't been nominated earlier. I told them they wouldn't honor me until Maryland won the national championship. I want to congratulate Gary [Williams]. I was very proud of the Maryland team this year. They had some great players, and Gary did a great job of bringing them together, which isn't as easy all of you might think. But I don't want to take up too much time because I'm kind of getting tired myself."

Emcee Holliday came on next and jokingly said, "Good night everybody." The rest of the honorees agreed that Driesell was an impossible act to follow. Recently retired coach Dick Edell, who was up next, said, "I thought playing Johns Hopkins at Homewood [Field] was a challenge. But Lefty, following you, buddy " Former baseball star Hiser jokingly asked Driesell to make his speech. And King said, "I'm glad I didn't have to follow Coach because he's still one of the greatest talkers and greatest coaches. It's an honor to be honored with him."

All-American football lineman Ed Modzelewski and All-American women's basketball player Jasmina Perazic-Gipe were the other inductees.


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