SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The University of Maryland’s legendary head coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell has been officially named a member of the 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class as announced Saturday at the Final Four in San Antonio. Driesell’s legacy as one of the most innovative and influential coaches in the history of college basketball will be enshrined during festivities at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, the birthplace of basketball, September 6-8, 2018.
Heralded for his infectious coaching and recruiting ability, the legendary Driesell transcended the basketball community during his 41 seasons as a head coach, including 17 seasons at the University of Maryland from 1969 to 1986.
Driesell amassed 786 wins, which ranked fifth among Division I head coaches when he retired in 2003. In 2007 Driesell was named to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He is the only coach in Division I history to win at least 100 games at four different schools.
Driesell rapidly built Maryland into a perennial contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference, recruiting such players as Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams and Len Bias.
Under the guidance of Driesell, Maryland won the National Invitational Tournament in 1972 – its second-ever ACC Tournament Championship in 1984. He finished his career at Maryland with a 348-159 record.
He is also credited with generating the idea for the nation’s first “Midnight Madness,” a tradition that has largely been inherited by almost every college basketball team in the country and still continues to this day. As the legend goes, Driesell held a one-mile run at the track in front of 1,000 fans around then-Byrd Stadium at 12:03 a.m. on October 15, 1971, the first possible day to begin practice.
In 1960 Driesell joined the collegiate ranks when he accepted the head coaching position at Davidson College. Driesell posted a 9-14 record in his first season at Davidson. He would have only one more losing season in the 40 years that followed. In nine seasons at Davidson, Driesell led the Wildcats to three Southern Conference Championships and posted an impressive 176-65 record.
Following a two-year hiatus from coaching after his time at Maryland, Driesell returned to the sidelines in 1988, when he was named the head coach at James Madison University. He led the Dukes to five regular season championships in the Colonial Athletics Association and a berth in the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
Six years later he became one of just three coaches to take four different programs to the NCAA Tournament when he coached Georgia State to the Big Dance following the 2000-01 season. The Panthers, who finished 29-5, upset Wisconsin in the first round of the tournament before falling to Maryland.
Driesell won 103 games in six seasons at Georgia State making him the only coach in Division I history to win at least 100 games at four different schools.
A bronze bas-relief of Driesell was unveiled at XFINITY Center on April 16, 2013. He is a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame. A banner honoring Driesell’s accomplishments was raised at the XFINITY Center on February 11, 2017.
This was Driesell’s fourth selection as a finalist for the sport basketball’s greatest honor, as he joins Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Maurice Cheeks, Ray Allen, Chris Webber, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Katie Smith, Tina Thompson, Hugh Evans and the 1953-58 Wayland Baptist University teams in this year’s class.
What They’re Saying
Brad Davis (Maryland, 1974-77)
“This honor is well deserved and I am extremely happy for Lefty. He had a big personality, was an excellent recruiter and he helped put Maryland basketball on the map. I am excited to see Lefty inducted into the Hall of Fame with such prestigious company.”
Len Elmore (Maryland, 1971-1974)
“I’ve always believed Lefty has belonged in the Hall of Fame. He’s won so many games at so many different places, he could have been selected not only as a coach, but also as a contributor. He did so many great things in marketing the game and opened up so many doors for many African Americans players and coaches like myself. He hired the first African American assistant coach in the ACC in George Raveling. And on my team, there were three African American starters at the time. Lefty was a trailblazer and an innovator; this is very well deserved. Lefty taught us so much and his messages and his lessons still stay with us to this day. It’s a glorious day, special moment and we’re so happy for Lefty.”
Damon Evans (Executive Director of Athletics)
“On behalf of the Maryland Athletics Department, we are thrilled that Lefty has received this well-deserved honor. I know how much he’s meant to college basketball and the University of Maryland. Lefty was a winner every step of the way; his accomplishments speak for themselves. His strong and personal connection with our fans and the unique bond they created is very special. We look forward to sharing in this celebration with Lefty, and are extremely proud of him.”
Keith Gatlin (Maryland, 1983-86)
“It was an honor to play for Coach Driesell, and this is well overdue for him to be named to the Hall of Fame. I learned so much from him both on and off the court, and this means a lot for both Maryland and the game of basketball. I’m really happy for coach and his family.”
Joe Harrington (Maryland 1965-67, 1969-79 Maryland Assistant Coach)
“Coach’s visions and goals for Maryland basketball became a reality, what a blessing for the university, area sports and all college basketball fans! Who will ever forget the 70’s when Coach Driesell said Maryland was going to be the UCLA of the East and walking through Cole Field House tunnel to ‘Hail to the Chief’ tune and flash that pregame left handed victory sign!”
Johnny Holliday (Maryland Sports Radio Network, 1979-present)
“When I started calling Maryland’s games in 1979, Lefty Driesell was kind of a John Wayne character in my eyes. I was in awe of doing the games for this guy because of his reputation and what he had done at Maryland. The more I got to know him and the more I got to do the games with him, I realized what a terrific coach we had and what an outstanding individual he was. I think this honor is long overdue, but I’m so happy that Lefty will now be recognized in his rightful place among the greats of the game of basketball. He put Maryland basketball on the map and brought so much to this area. I’m thrilled to have worked alongside him.”
Albert King (Maryland, 1977-81)
“I’m so happy for Lefty and his family. The fact that he is now going into the Hall of Fame makes all the work and time put into the game that much better. Coach really taught you, especially when you get older and look back, about being a better person. He taught you how treat people, how to dress the right way, how to present yourself the right way; those were things I never thought about until I got older. As I’ve gotten older I’ve really appreciated those life lessons.”
John Lucas (Maryland, 1972-76)
“This is long overdue for Lefty. He was a great innovator of the game in the early 70 and 80s. Lefty has always been solidified with his former players as a Hall of Famer. Now that he is officially a member of the Hall of Fame, this is just a wonderful day for Lefty and Maryland basketball.”
Tony Massenburg (Maryland, 1986-90)
“This is long overdue considering everything that he accomplished in the game of college basketball. Lefty was one of the all-time greatest recruiters. He was one of the most charismatic personalities in college basketball. His name is synonymous with the University of Maryland. When you talked about the school or basketball program – you would immediately think of Lefty. I could go on and on about Lefty. It is great to have Lefty as a member of the Hall of Fame.”
National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Famer Tom McMillen (Maryland 1971-74)
“Lefty is the greatest turnaround coach in college basketball history. He took four struggling programs and made them all winners. It is a very well-deserved honor for Lefty to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Steve Sheppard (Maryland, 1974-1977)
“Lefty was a heck of a character. He’s a very enthusiastic guy and he really made sure you worked hard. One thing I can say is those stands were full every game when I was there, Lefty just brought so much excitement. He deserves this honor and all the accolades he has received. Lefty made Maryland.”
Mark Turgeon (Maryland Head Coach 2011-present)
“We’re all thrilled and excited the day has come that Lefty Driesell has joined the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. His impact on the game of college basketball is one of the reasons why the game has grown and become so popular today. Lefty laid the foundation in places here like Maryland by being innovative and creative. To win 786 games is simply a remarkable accomplishment, it’s a testament to the outstanding coach that Lefty is. I’ve always admired his competitive spirit and I’m so happy for Lefty to finally be recognized as the Hall of Famer he is.”
Naismith Hall of Fame Head Coach Gary Williams (Maryland Head Coach, 1989-2011)
“Lefty was instrumental in moving Maryland into the modern era of basketball. He arrived in 1970 and marketed the program very well. Lefty created Midnight Madness and was a great innovator.”
Lefty Driesell By the Numbers
786 – Career wins
348 – Wins as the head coach of the University of Maryland
100 – Only coach in Division I history to win at least 100 games at four different schools
28 – First or Second Team All-ACC Players
10 – 20+ win seasons at Maryland
7 – Players Picked in the top-15 of the NBA Draft
6 – Numbers of teams ending the year ranked in the top-10 nationally
6 – All-Americans (Most in school history)
4 – Number of programs taken to the NCAA Tournament
3 – U.S. Olympians coached
2 – ACC Coach of the Year Awards (1975 & 1980)
1 – Rhodes Scholar