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Driesell Retires After 786 Wins

January 04, 2003|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — In his familiar, down-home drawl, Lefty Driesell gave a simple reason for retiring after four decades as one of the nation's most successful college basketball coaches: He's tired.

Driesell, who turned 71 on Christmas, stepped down Friday at Georgia State, finishing with 786 victories -- fifth-most on the Division I list and third among active coaches. His teams played in the NCAA tournament 13 times.

He hadn't been feeling well lately, and he told his wife it was time to step down.

"I woke up New Year's Day and I told Joyce, 'I've worked 49 years, and most people retire after 25 years. I'm just tired and I've got this bad cold and I'm just going to retire,' " Driesell said. "I'm looking forward to not having a job. I can get up when I want to and do what I want to."

Driesell, who also coached at Davidson, Maryland and James Madison, is the only coach to win at least 100 games at four schools, and is one of three to take that many schools to the NCAA tournament.

"When I come back in my next life, I want to get a Duke job or a North Carolina or a UCLA," Driesell said with a laugh. "I've never taken over a program that's been in really good shape. I like building a program."

Despite his record, Driesell never took a team to the Final Four, and he might be best remembered as the coach at Maryland when All-American Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose in 1986.

He said he hasn't ruled out coaching again, but for now he wants to spend time with Joyce at their beach home in Virginia.

The man known as the Ol' Left-hander -- his given name is Charles -- grew up in the Norfolk area and graduated from Duke with dean's list honors after leading the Blue Devils to a top-10 ranking as a senior in 1954. He also earned a master's degree from William & Mary.

Driesell was one of 14 finalists last year for the Basketball Hall of Fame. His overall record of 786-394 gives him a .666 winning percentage. His longest stint was the 17 years he spent at Maryland from 1969 to '86.

Asked who was the best player he coached, Driesell cited Bias, who died shortly after being drafted in the first round by the Boston Celtics in 1986.

"Len Bias was a great player," he said. "That's sort of when the Celtics went down."

Driesell was forced out at Maryland after Bias' death. An investigation found academic problems in the basketball program and drug use among athletes. There also were accusations that Driesell hindered the police inquiry into Bias' death, but a grand jury took no action.

Assistant coach Michael Perry will replace Driesell on an interim basis, beginning with tonight's home game against Gardner-Webb.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

In Lefty's Field

Coaches with the most victories at NCAA Division I schools:

Dean Smith

Years: 36

Wins: 879

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Adolph Rupp

Years: 41

Wins: 876

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Jim Phelan

Years: 48

Wins: 824

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Bob Knight

Years: 36

Wins: 796

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Lefty Driesell

Years: 41

Wins: 786

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