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Driesell Hints of Interest in NBA Position

November 09, 1986|MARK ASHER | The Washington Post

Lefty Driesell, who was forced to resign as University of Maryland basketball coach Nov. 29, said Monday he likely will want to resume coaching next season, possibly in the National Basketball Assn.

In a telephone interview from his Silver Spring, Md., home, Driesell said he is unsure why Chancellor John B. Slaughter wanted to make a change. He also confirmed a report last week that he turned down an offer by the university to coach for one more year, then be re-evaluated with a contract shortened from nine years to five or six years.

Driesell said he is hedging about his return to coaching because, "I've always been a head coach and had a team of my own for 31 straight years. It's very strange not having a team of my own. But, then again, I might like that and decide I've had enough. But right now I don't think that's what I'll decide to do. But you never can tell."

Earlier, in an interview with the Associated Press, Driesell said he already had the urge to resume coaching. "I'm not going after anybody's job, but if they contact me, I'd be interested in talking," he said. "I can still coach."

Of his interest in coaching in the NBA, Driesell said Monday night, "If there was some interest in my doing that, I might consider it. I've always said I liked that because there was no recruiting and more basketball than anything else."

His attorneys and many fellow coaches expect Driesell to be coaching next season.

Driesell said he was assigned an office for himself and his secretary, Barbara Bennett, Monday in Cole Field House near the women's basketball office. He said he expects to begin his duties as an assistant athletic director after taking two weeks off. His job, still not completely defined, involves promotion, marketing and fund raising.

Driesell said he had hoped to continue coaching the Terrapins until the night before signing the six-page agreement to step down and accept reassignment.

"I thought I had a chance of staying as coach, probably because of the kind of person I am," he said in the AP interview. "But I probably shouldn't have been so optimistic. I thought that sooner or later, they'd come to their senses and say, 'Come on back and coach.' It would have been better for both of us if I had been invited back."

Under the new eight-year deal, Driesell, 54, retains his $85,800 salary, with annual increases; is guaranteed $200,000 in television money over the next four years even if he does not appear; and is allowed to run his basketball camp for two weeks each summer.

The contract becomes void when and if Driesell takes another job.

He confirmed that he could have coached at Maryland this season, but was not interested. The one-year coaching deal was a counteroffer by the university to the five called for in his contract.

"I had a five-year contract to coach," he said. "Why would I want to give it up for a one-year contract to coach? There's no basis for doing that. I hadn't committed any crime or done anything immoral or wrong. Why am I going to give up four years of coaching that I was guaranteed? It didn't make sense to me."

Driesell said he had only three face-to-face meetings with Slaughter in the four months following the cocaine-induced death of star player Len Bias and subsequent revelations of academic shortcomings of Bias and teammates. There were no meetings in the final six to eight weeks before Slaughter forced Driesell's resignation, sources close to both men have said.

Driesell said he misses coaching at this time of the year -- "the teaching, putting in your offenses and your defenses, and out-of-bounds plays, and delays, and post defenses and stuff.

"To me, that's the most fun, what we'd be doing right now. You develop your team and do a lot of teaching. After that, it's pressure. But at this time of the year, it's kinda fun."

Driesell said he is planning to treat this season as "a sabbatical, like professors do." He plans to watch a lot of basketball "in a pleasurable vein," as he put it, including both college and pro ball.

For now, Driesell plans to answer all the letters and telegrams he has received recently.

Driesell said reports that he has feuded with new Maryland coach Bob Wade, from Dunbar High School in Baltimore, are untrue. No one from Dunbar has played for Maryland since Ernest Graham enrolled in 1977.

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