On June 19, 1986, Len Bias passed away just two days after being drafted number two overall by the Boston Celtics. One of the greatest college basketball players to ever live was gone before he ever got the opportunity to play at the highest level.
Twenty-five years after Bias passed away, there are still many misconceptions surrounding Len and the circumstances that led to his death. Lefty Driesell joined Luke Jones on June 19th, exactly 25 years after Bias’ death, and discussed the man who he coached, but more importantly as Lefty put it, loved like his son.
“He was a great individual, a great human being,” Driesell said. “A recruit we had that went out with him the week before he died, I asked him if Leonard was messing with any drugs or anything the night he was with him. He said ‘Coach, he wouldn’t even drink a beer.'”
Driesell insists Bias was a good student, telling Luke that it was his own fault, along with Len’s advisor, that Bias flunked his 15 credits during his last semester at Maryland.
“Let me tell you something, Leonard Bias was a good student,” Driesell said. “I don’t think he ever flunked a course until that last semester. He would have graduated, he would have passed everything had he not been an All-American and number two NBA draft pick.”
While Lefty referred to Bias’ death as a “tragic accident,” he believes his death has served as a warning to all those who have used or considered using cocaine or other harmful drugs.
“I think he’s been a great example,” Driesell said. “I’m speaking down at Chuck’s camp at the Citadel this week and I always bring that up. You know, stay off of drugs. Leonard Bias was a born again Christian, went to church every Sunday, so don’t let anyone talk you into experimenting with drugs. Anything you take that messes with your mind is bad. Even if it doesn’t kill you it messes your mind up. I think it has had a tremendous effect.”
Aside from the personal storylines surrounding Len Bias’ death, the reverberations that it had on the basketball world cannot be ignored. The Boston Celtics were greatly counting on Len Bias to help them stay on top of the basketball world. Driesell believes Bias would have fit in very well with the Celtics.
“I think it would have been a perfect fit,” Driesell said. “Like I told you, Red Auerbach is no fool. He knew what he was doing and that’s why he drafted him second. There were a lot of good players who came after him but he knew how good Leonard was going to be. The thing about it was when Leonard passed away it really hurt the Celtics in the future.”
“I don’t like to brag on my own players, but Red Auerbach is probably the best evaluator of talent that there has ever been,” Driesell said. “He picked him number two, so I think he was going to be a great player. I think they were grooming him to take Larry Bird’s place.”