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Maryland Basketball

Maryland Athletics Mourns The Loss Of Legendary Lefty Driesell

February 17, 2024
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COLLEGE PARK, MD - With great sadness, the University of Maryland mourns the loss of an icon today as it was announced that Charles “Lefty” Driesell (Dec. 25, 1931-Feb. 17, 2024) passed away on Saturday morning at the age of 92. Driesell was a legend in the sport who left an indelible mark on Maryland basketball and the college basketball community as a whole.

“Lefty Driesell was a transcendent figure in college basketball and the man who put Maryland basketball on the map,” said Damon Evans, the Barry P. Gossett Director of Athletics. “A Hall of Famer, Lefty was an innovator, a man who was ahead of his time from his coaching on the court to his marketing off the court. From starting Midnight Madness to nationally-televised games with sold out Cole Field House crowds, Lefty did it all. He led Maryland to the NIT Championship, eight NCAA Tournaments, multiple ACC Championships and a consistent Top-10 ranking during his tenure, producing tons of NBA players. We are saddened to hear of his passing and send our condolences to his entire family and community of friends. His memory will be forever etched in Maryland basketball history.”

“It is with great sadness that we received this news today and our condolences go out to his family,” said Maryland men’s basketball coach Kevin Willard. “Words cannot express all that Coach Driesell embodied and the impact he made on the game. Most importantly, however, was his commitment to his players and the depth of relationships he made with all those around him. Maryland and the college basketball world lost one of its monumental figures today.” 

One of the most legendary and colorful coaches in college basketball, Driesell led the Terps from 1969-86 posting a 348-159 overall record which is second in program history to only Gary Williams. Under Driesell, Maryland reached eight NCAA Tournaments (1973, 1975, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986), won the 1972 NIT Championship title, won the 1984 ACC Tournament Championship, and posted a pair of ACC Regular Season titles. Additionally, Maryland reached the ACC title game six times under Driesell. The Terps were ranked as high as No. 2 nationally in the AP rankings for four consecutive years from 1972-76.

Driesell served as head coach at four different institutions: Davidson (1960-69), Maryland (1969-86), James Madison (1988-96), and Georgia State (1997-03). He held an overall coach record of 786-394 and was named Coach of the Year nine times throughout four different conferences including twice in the ACC with Maryland (1975, 1980).

His 786 victories still ranks 15th all-time among all NCAA Division I coaches and is 23rd overall at all levels of NCAA basketball. He is among 10 coaches all-time to have coached 40 seasons or more along such notables as Adolph Rubb, Mike Krzyzewski, Phog Allen, Ed Diddle, Jim Boeheim, Bob Knight, Jim Calhou, Bob Huggins and Henry Iba. Only Coach Driesell and Cliff Ellis led four different Division I schools to 100 or more wins during their careers.

Driesell was honored in 2018 with induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. That came after his induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. He was also a member of the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Southern Conference Hall of Fame, and the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame. He was awarded the NCAA Award of Valor for helping save lives from a structure fire in 1973 and in 2010, the Lefty Driesell Award for best defensive player in NCAA Division I basketball was created.

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.

A bronze bas-relief of Driesell was unveiled at XFINITY Center on April 16, 2013. A banner honoring Driesell's accomplishments was raised at the XFINITY Center on February 11, 2017.

For those who wish to honor Coach Driesell’s legacy to Maryland basketball, a fund was previously established to provide financial assistance to deserving student-athletes. The Charles “Lefty” Driesell Endowed Scholarship honors his legacy in perpetuity by providing a meaningful annual scholarship in his name.

Additional details regarding services to honor Coach Driesell will be announced soon.

 
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