- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

The thought is enough to boggle the brains of folks who have been following area college hoops for a while: A guy named Driesell coaching at Georgetown? What’s next, somebody named Thompson on the staff at Maryland?

Of course, this Driesell is not Lefty, who ended his 41-year courtside career nearly a year ago when he retired at Georgia State. The Hoyas’ new assistant is son Chuck, who schlepped a few miles over to the Hilltop this summer after six years as head man at Division III Marymount in Arlington.

Once upon a time, it was presumed Maryland’s Lefty Driesell and Georgetown’s John Thompson disliked each other with fine and impartial fervor as each struggled to make his program the best around D.C. and possibly in the nation. In December 1979, harsh words were exchanged after a Hoyas-Terps battle at D.C. Armory — words so harsh that the annual regular-season combat was discontinued.

That was a long time ago, in case we need reminding, and nothing stays the same in life or sports. Before Georgetown opened its season against Grambling State last week at MCI Center, Lefty and Big John were observed laughing and gabbing away like old pals. Next thing you know, George W. might be asking Hillary over for tea and crumpets.

“Some people are making a big deal over my being at Georgetown, but it doesn’t feel strange to me,” Chuck Driesell said the other day. “Any antagonism my dad and John Thompson might have felt toward each other was only because they’re both such competitive people.”

Chuck is pretty competitive himself, but he’s not a copy of his famous and famously volatile father. “Losses eat away at me just as much, but I can control my emotions and not let it show,” he said. “I don’t let things bother me the way he did sometimes, things like critical newspaper stories.”

After mostly riding the bench on his dad’s Maryland teams of the mid-‘80s, Chuck was preparing to take a job with a pharmaceutical company until his old man inquired, “You’re gonna make a living selling bedpans?”

Thereupon the younger Driesell landed a job as coach at the Naval Academy Prep School. Then he worked as Lefty’s assistant at James Madison before starting his tenure at Marymount. But at 41, his chances of someday being head coach at a Division I school were fading until Hoyas boss Craig Esherick crooked a finger in August after two vacancies opened on his staff.

Still, a guy named Driesell coaching at Georgetown?

“I think it’s great,” Lefty said. “Georgetown is one of the top academic schools, it has a great basketball tradition and it’s in a wonderful location. It’s a great opportunity for Chuck.”

Normally, it’s difficult for a head coach to return to the ranks of the assistants. In this case, the transition has been easier because Esherick is an old friend of the family. He went to school with one of Lefty’s daughters w-a-a-y back, his brother Blake is one of Chuck’s closest friends and Esherick has sent his two young sons to Chuck’s basketball camp at Marymount for several summers.

“We’re probably never going to have a misunderstanding,” Chuck said of Esherick, “but if we do, we’ll get over it.”

Esherick is fortunate that his two new assistants this season come from widely dissimilar basketball backgrounds because diversity on a staff is always an asset. The other newcomer, former Hoyas star Jaren Jackson, played on 13 pro teams in nine seasons. Not much is going to catch Esherick and his staff by surprise this hopeful season.

“I’m flattered that Chuck took the job,” Esherick said. “He was raised by a coach, and he has a ton of basketball experience. One of his strengths, aside from that, is his enthusiasm. You have to try to motivate your players all season, and Chuck is always enthusiastic and fun to be around — in practice, before games, after games. And he grew up listening to his dad’s basketball stories the same way I always listened to Coach Thompson’s [as a longtime Hoyas assistant].”

When Esherick approached Chuck, he didn’t have to ask twice. Said Driesell: “Taking the Georgetown job was a no-brainer, but it was hard to leave my players at Marymount. After all, when you recruit guys, they come there [to play] for you.”

In the Hoyas’ three games so far, including Tuesday night’s against Coastal Carolina, Chuck has comported himself respectably on the sideline, but can he really keep his feelings inside when Big East opponents come calling? With those bloodlines? All I can say is, I wouldn’t want to be a vacant chair on the Hoyas’ bench when the refs start making calls inimical to the Hoyas’ best interests.

But you never know — this Driesell might indeed be different. After all, he has hair — and he’s right-handed.

A Driesell coaching at Georgetown? It should be interesting.

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