- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

Even though Maryland’s newest assistant basketball coach probably hasn’t gotten the key to his Comcast Center office yet, it’s good, clean fun to speculate about his future.

Could another guy named Driesell become lord and master of men’s hoops at Terptown?


Well, why not?

Genes and tradition being what they are, the idea strikes some of us sooner rather than later. Right now, Chuck Driesell isn’t much closer to the top than, say, Robert Novak — the noted political commentator and certified Terrapins fanatic.

Yet, head man Gary Williams is no kid. He’s 61 and approaching his 18th season at his alma mater. Moreover, the decline in Maryland’s basketball fortunes and lack of NCAA tournament appearances the last two seasons makes you wonder if Gary might be inclined to cap off his career by accepting a filthy rich offer from some NBA team tired of finding itself in the lottery every year.

This spring reports surfaced that the Charlotte Bobcats were interested in the tensest, most hyperactive college coach this side of Bobby Knight. Williams quickly knocked down such talk, to mix a metaphor, but at some point he might be more receptive to the sight of suitcases figuratively bulging with NBA cash. (Although Maryland already pays him a guaranteed $1.6 million annually, plus incentives.)

And if Eddie Jordan and the Wizards ever part company …

“Age is no problem for Gary,” said basketball’s most renowned Lefthander , aka Driesell pere. “Heck, I coached until I was 70. Gary’s got a lot of years left.”

No argument. The question is where he might spend them.

Coaches tend to react reflexively and negatively when asked about the distant future, a purview better left to sports columnists and TV babbling heads, so Williams and both Driesells surely will dodge the topic of Chuck’s eventual ascension. But the mere thought of a second glorious Driesell era in College Park should be enough to make veteran Maryland fans revive the old cries of “Amen!” that accompanied assorted triumphs at Cole Field House.

For those of you not around at the time, Charles Grice Driesell stomped into Cole Field House in 1969 promising to make Maryland “the UCLA of the East.” Though Lefty never quite did that, his 17-year reign produced a 348-159 record, numerous trips to the NCAA tournament and a constant level of excitement helped along by his volatile nature.

It’s worth noting, too, that Chuck’s hiring comes just short of 20 years after the sad demise of Terps star Len Bias, whose cocaine-induced death spurred a chain reaction that resulted in Lefty — a convenient scapegoat — being forced out as coach. But now, it seems, there are no hard feelings on either side.

“That was a long time ago, and we’ve recovered,” said Joyce Driesell, the wife of one Maryland coach and now the mother of another.

And, said Lefty, it’s entirely fitting for Chuck to take his seat at Williams’ right hand.

“He’ll do a great job,” Dad added. “Chuck was 5 years old when we moved to Maryland [from Davidson], so he’s been around Maryland basketball all his life. I’m sure he can sell the school and sell Gary [to potential recruits]. Besides, he’s a great floor coach, and he does a great job of scouting.”

OK, so Lefty isn’t exactly impartial. But Chuck was his associate head coach at James Madison a while back, and Lefty loves winning too much to endorse a loser, regardless of blood lines.

Though Williams has made a point of saying he would not designate a No.1 assistant, the way seems clear for Chuck to rise rapidly. Ex-Terp Keith Booth has been on Gary’s staff for only two seasons and former Washington Mystics head man Michael Adams for one, meaning there will be no significant difference in tenures. So it’s reasonable to envision Chuck as a potential top guy whenever Gary departs.

Meanwhile, will he be ranting and raving at the zebras and kicking chairs on the sidelines like his combustible old man?

“Naw, Chuck’s not as excitable as me,” Lefty insisted. “Most of the time anyway.”

Chuck also demurs. “I just want to be the best assistant I can for Coach Williams,” he said. “I hope people won’t even notice I’m there.”

This seems unlikely, but regardless there will indeed be another Driesell on the bench at Maryland this winter. And because it seems entirely fitting and proper, perhaps we should call this one Righty.

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