COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It’s been a long time since Lefty Driesell brought Maryland basketball into prominence, flashing the victory sign before home games and foot-stomping his way to 348 wins over 17 years.
In an effort to ensure his legacy won’t soon be forgotten, the school raised a banner with Driesell’s name on it to the rafters of its home arena Saturday.
Charles “Lefty” Driesell went 348-159 from 1969 to ’86. Though supplanted by Gary Williams as the winningest coach in school history, Driesell still has the best career winning percentage (.686).
Now 85, long retired and walking with a cane, Driesell returned to Maryland for an emotional ceremony before the Terrapins faced Ohio State. He was joined by dozens his former players, including former NBA stars Buck Williams, Walt Williams and Albert King.
Upon being introduced, Driesell thrust his hands in the air, each showing his trademark “V for victory” sign.
The red banner was then unfurled with a big white “M” on top of his name. Underneath was a list of his most notable accomplishments at Maryland, including six top-10 finishes.
Before the banner was raised, Driesell entertained alumni and donors in a private session. He recalled visiting King — then one of the nation’s best high school players — in the projects of Brooklyn, New York.
“He was on the 12th floor. I get to the elevator and it won’t work,” Driesell said. “Twelve floors? [I thought], ‘This King better be good.’ I tell ya what, I walked up 12 floors to see him.”
Though Driesell had a do-anything-to-win reputation, he always said his first priority was that his players displayed integrity on and off the court.
“He used to always tell us, ‘Respect, work hard, practice hard, play hard,'” King recalled. “Back then, I didn’t want to listen to that all the time. But now that I’m 57, I understand what he was saying. … What Coach really wanted to make sure is that we become good people.”
Driesell led Maryland to the 1984 Atlantic Coast Conference championship, had 10 20-win seasons and was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year.
“My biggest regret is we never went to the Final Four,” he said. “But getting into the NCAAs back then was hard to do.”
Driesell was relieved of his coaching duties at Maryland after Len Bias died of cocaine intoxication in June 1986. He came to Maryland after rebuilding the basketball program at Davidson and coached at James Madison and Georgia State following his time with the Terrapins.