With the Maryland men’s basketball team on its first losing streak in a year, coach Mark Turgeon welcomed someone to Friday’s practice who had won at every stop of his 41-year coaching career.
Lefty Driesell the ninth winningest coach in Division I men’s college basketball history, gave advice to the Terps before they hosted Ohio State on Saturday afternoon.
He tallied 348 victories and a 68.6 winning percentage at Maryland from 1969 to 1986. He also won more than 100 games each at Davidson, James Madison and Georgia State, making him the only coach to do so at four Division I schools.
The Terps honored the 85-year-old College Basketball Hall of Famer for these accomplishments before the Terps’ 86-77 win over the Buckeyes. In front of a sold-out crowd and about 30 of Driesell’s former players, the program hung his banner in the Xfinity Center rafters, a fitting ceremony for one of Maryland’s most successful coaches.
“What a great day — we got to honor Lefty,” Turgeon said. “I told my a lot of stories to my team about him, things he’s done in his career. He gave the guys a lot of great advice.”
About 20 minutes before Turgeon’s bunch took to the floor for tip-off, Driesell, his wife, Joyce, and his former players stood on the hardwood and looked to the video board for a montage highlighting his achievements.
Moments later, a red banner with white text unfurled from the rafters. It noted his six final top-10 teams, 786 Division I wins and his creation of Midnight Madness, which began when he invited fans to watch his team run around the then-Byrd Stadium track on the first possible day of practice in 1971.
Now, programs around the country hold the annual event to celebrate the start of the season.
Throughout the ceremony, almost all of the announced 17,950 fans paid tribute to Driesell with a standing ovation.
“Today is very special to me because when they told me they wanted to hang a banner for me, I told them I never got a rebound, I never scored a point, I never turned the ball over,” Driesell said Saturday. “I said that today is for my players. When I walk out when they lower the banner, I told them I want my players to come.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Driesell sat with his former standouts Buck Williams and Albert King and longtime Maryland broadcaster Johnny Holliday for a “Visit with the Legends” session. The panel reminisced and laughed about the coach to the delight of Maryland’s boosters at Heritage Hall.
Ohio State associate head coach Dave Dickerson also made sure to congratulate his former coach, even if it meant the former Terps player interrupting the conversation wearing a gray Buckeyes shirt and red shorts.
“We all had talent and we all had ability, but what coach wanted to ensure was that we became good people,” said King, the 1980 ACC Player of the Year. “And then you look around this room, a lot of the guys are good people.”
Williams and King later watched Driesell and his wife stroll toward midcourt. As he walked, Driesell threw both hands in the air and formed peace signs with his fingers. It represented the “V-for-victory” signs fans had become accustomed to during his tenure.
The gesture also served as foreshadowing for Maryland’s 21st win of the year.
“We’re undefeated when he’s in the building, so I felt pretty good going into the game,” Turgeon said after the victory. “It was great to see, very well deserved.”