COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland men’s basketball coaching legend Lefty Diesell was honored for his tremendous career on Saturday as his banner was raised in the rafters of XFINITY Center.
The day began with a breakfast at the College Park Mariott, where Driesell and his family was joined by 35 former players and coaches. Driesell and former players Albert King and Buck Williams then took part in a “Chat with the Legends” at Heritage Hall in the XFINITY Center. Prior to tip-off of Maryland’s contest against Ohio State, Driesell was honored with a banner ceremony on the court in front of a sold-out arena.
“This is not about me, but it is really about my players,” said Driesell, who finished his career at Maryland with an impressive 348-159 record. “I am very humbled. It is a very special honor. I told the administration that I wanted to share this with my players and I am very excited that I got to share this on the court with them today.”
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 rapidly built Maryland into a perennial contender in Atlantic Coast Conference, recruiting such players as Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams and Len Bias.
“The key to coach was always the work ethic,” Williams said. “People talked about how I had such a great work ethic, but I got it from coach. Coach really worked us hard and none of the players who ever played for coach were afraid of hard work. We came to Maryland to get prepared for the next level, and coach deserves a lot of credit for doing that.”
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.
“We had about 700 or 800 people there and we had them run around,” Driesell said. “The next year, Mo Howard was here and he said ‘Coach, there were 1,000 people here last year watching us run. Why don’t we just have a scrimmage?’ I thought that was a good idea and so we had a scrimmage. We had about 8,000 to 10,000 people there and it just ballooned from there.”
Driesell made every Maryland player feel like family, which was acknowledged by his son, and his former players.
“My dad is super competitive,” Driesell’s son Chuck said. “He is a great coach and competitor. I thought my father would just go to work and coach basketball. I didn’t realize he was such a showman. People loved it and they came to games just to watch him.”
Williams added, “It was such a family. I enjoyed coming back because those guys were always here and always encouraging me and it was just great being a part of this family. Coach and my teammates adopted me when I came out of high school and left North Carolina and it has been a great ride and journey coming here and being part of Maryland.”