- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

It was a very unusual, almost surreal sight Lefty Driesell not paying much attention to a basketball game unfolding in front of him. Down on the Comcast Center floor, Maryland and N.C. State were commencing combat this Thursday night, but the old Lefthander was otherwise occupied.
He was simply a guy having fun and at 71, after storming through 41 seasons on the sideline, he was entitled. Only if the Terps still played at Cole Field House could his visit have been more poignant.
Standing in a luxury suite graciously vacated by athletic director Debbie Yow for the evening, Driesell chatted with well-wishers, hugged grandchildren and made small talk with other members of his large family. On a night when Maryland was honoring the man who kicked its basketball program into the national spotlight 30 years ago, Lefty wasn't a coach any longer and glad of it.
"Do you miss it?" a man asked.
"Miss what?" Lefty said, joking. "Oh, you mean coaching. Yeah a little, but not the travel and all the little things a coach has to do. You know, a couple of weeks ago, I went to a game at Duke, and I think it was the first time in 40 years I was just watching and not coaching or scouting. They gave me a big ovation. That was nice, too."
Lefty Driesell getting an ovation at Duke? Have the Cameron Crazies gone crazy? Or maybe just mature enough to hail a distinguished alumnus?
Occasionally, Driesell took a peek at the Comcast action far below. "Hey, Chuck," he yelled to his son, a longtime assistant coach under his dad and now head honcho of hoops at Marymount University in Arlington. "State's running that Princeton stuff."
Chuck nodded. What that meant, presumably, was that the Wolfpack were employing a deliberate offense with set plays, designed to keep more talented Maryland from frequently fastbreaking. For a while, it worked. N.C. State led through much of the first half.
During a timeout, the door to the suite opened and in came former Maryland athletic director Jim Kehoe and his wife, Barbara. All Terps fans owe Kehoe an everlasting debt. He was the man who brought Lefty to Maryland in 1969 as part of the Washington area's incredible influx of big-name coaching and managerial talent that year.
"I didn't really want to leave Davidson," Driesell said. "My last team there was 23-4, No.3 in the country and we had four starters coming back. I wanted to be athletic director there someday, and if they had agreed to that I wouldn't have left. But Coach Kehoe told me I could be up here in Washington right with Ted Williams and Vince Lombardi. He was quite a salesman."
And Driesell shook his head in admiration, a silent tribute from one super salesman to another.
Kehoe wore one of his trademark sports jackets, broadly checked and horribly loud.
"You know what, Lefty," he said. "I've got on the same jacket, pants and shoes I wore the day I hired you in '69." Nearby, Barbara Kehoe presumably was rolling her eyes and emitting sighs.
Toward the end of the first half, Maryland assistant athletic director Michael Lipitz led Driesell and Kehoe down a stairway to courtside as fans in the vicinity began applauding and calling Lefty's name. He sat down in front of the press table and chatted with Red Auerbach, the legendary Boston Celtics coach who had come to pay his own tribute.
As the halftime break began, a 90-second video about Driesell flashed onto Comcast's video boards. When it was over and broadcaster Johnny Holliday introduced him, a pair of cheerleaders escorted Driesell onto the court and into a maelstrom of cheers and applause.
Former Terps center Len Elmore presented Driesell with a commemorative basketball and a plaque bearing a statement by Rep. Steny Hoyer that will be inserted into the Congressional Record. After the brief but moving ceremony, Driesell was escorted to a press area and questioned by reporters half his age.
Yes, he was honored to be honored. Yes, he had a lot of great memories of 17 years at Maryland. No, he wasn't angry because he hadn't been invited to participate in ceremonies during the last game at Cole Field House in March (though many of his friends were). No, he bore no ill will toward the university because he was forced out as coach several months after All-American Len Bias' cocaine-related death in 1986 (though many of his friends felt he was a scapegoat).
Then it was over, and Driesell returned to the luxury suite to watch (or not watch) the rest of the game. The teams came back out, and once more Gary Williams Lefty's successor once removed was Maryland's main man.
Driesell gazed down at the floor as the Terps took command of the game. "What a beautiful place this is," he said. "I wish I'd had a place like this to recruit with."
Of course, he didn't do badly. All-American Tom McMillen, who missed the game because of travel problems, was the first of several dozen blue-chippers Lefty lured simply by being himself gruff, witty and forthright. He lost the one who could have brought him a national championship when Moses Malone succumbed to ABA dollars after agreeing to come to Maryland, but that wasn't Lefty's fault.
When the game ended, Driesell walked through the crowd and toward the Maryland locker room, where he encountered Williams outside. The two men, who have coached Maryland to 635 victories over 31 seasons, shook hands warmly.
"Good luck. Keep 'em rollin,'" Driesell said. "You're doin' a great job."
And, well you know, the old Lefthander should know.

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