Because I’m youngish and have a fleeting institutional knowledge of Maryland athletics, I didn’t know the significance of Lefty Driesell’s hand signal when he was honored at the Comcast Center on Saturday afternoon. Maybe you didn’t, either.
Sports Illustrated explained it, in a 1971 piece titled “Give Lefty A V, A V And…”.
In the fall of  Driesell set out to convince the students at Maryland that an evening of basketball at Cole Field House actually could be fun. He placed rows of folding chairs around the basketball floor in order to increase crowd noise and audience participation. And then he tried to find a gimmick like the famous stomp that had helped him win three Southern Conference championships at Davidson. To get the idea across he stomped himself. When he would become enraged at an official or wanted to fire up the crowd he would leap from the bench, throw down his jacket and jump on it. Mercifully, a new NCAA ruling restricts coaches to the bench, thus rendering the stomp extinct.
“When the fans think you’re going to get beat you have to come up with something,” he explained last week. His something hit him suddenly as he walked out for a South Carolina game at Cole Field House last season. It was almost like an involuntary spasm. He threw his left arm into the air, and his fingers made a V sign—for victory, Driesell insists, not peace. At each subsequent home game he gave the crowd one, two or three victory signals, depending upon the quality of the opposition. Now the crowd watches silently for the gesture, and when it comes Cole Field House erupts.
SI obviously wasn’t the only publication to write about this. The Post did, too; for example, at the top of this Paul Attner piece in December of ’69:
Maryland’s basketball team raced onto the Cole Field House court to the accompaniment of rhythmic applause from the large crowd. It was a more than gracious greeting for a losing (3-4) outfit. But what followed shook the rafters of the modern sports palace.
A tall, balding man, resplendent in a red blazer with a large ‘M’ and the ‘University of Maryland’ woven on its pocket, followed the Terrapins from the locker room. His appearance brought the College Park partisans to their feet, cheering and stomping.
They stopped only when he raised both hands above his head and gave the V-for-victory sign. Exhausted after loudly signifying their approval of his forecast, they sank into their seats, the climax of the evening already reached and the game about to start.
So that’s why Driesell repeatedly flashed the V-for-Victory on Saturday. The more you know. Here’s the video. Read more from Feinstein, and from Alex Prewitt. I also liked what Driesell said when Comcast SportsNet’s Chick Hernandez caught up with him during the game.
“I wish we had a little bigger of a lead,” Driesell said. “That’s the only thing I’d like. Because I spoke to the team yesterday. I said, ‘Y’all better win tomorrow or I’m gonna kill ya.’”
Give him a V, a V, and…