Lefty Driesell to coach Maryland basketball alumni in summer league series


(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

It’s been a decade since Lefty Driesell last stomped on the sideline, last screamed and sweated through his sport coat, last graced a basketball bench with his presence. But in a delicious blending of the old and new, the legendary Maryland leader will coach once again, albeit in an exhibition game with a four-point shot and hockey-style substitution patterns.

Driesell will coach a team of Maryland players this Saturday in the Basketball Alumni Legends League pro basketball series. His team will face the Washington D.C. team at George Washington University’s Smith Center, with tip-off at 7 p.m.  Driesell’s Maryland squad is composed of alumni from around the area, including six former Terrapins. 

“These guys are good players, just not good enough right now to play in the NBA,” Driesell said Friday by phone. “If they do well in these leagues, some team might pick them up. I played my best basketball when I was out of Duke, playing semi-pro ball. I think it’s a good opportunity for them. Today’s Maryland fans would enjoy coming and seeing those players.”

Tom McMillen, the former Maryland star and current member of the system’s Board of Regents, first told Driesell about the opportunity. If Driesell were vacationing at his Virginia Beach home, he said, he would have declined. But he’s only a few hours away in Bethany, Del., at the moment, so he’s going to hitch a ride with longtime Terps fan John Rymer.

Driesell said he expects an all-star atmosphere Saturday, especially with the league’s tweaked rules. A four-point line sits 25 feet from the center of each basket. “All-or-nothing” free throws mean players fouled on a three-pointer shoot one free throw — for three points. Same goes for the four-point line (four points) or on shots from inside the arcs (two points from the foul line). Players are automatically given a point when fouled while making a shot, they don’t foul out and substitutions can be made on the fly. Zone defense and on-ball screens at the top of the key are both banned.

The goal: speed up the game. Driesell once coached a Maryland team that shot, on average, every 11 seconds. He expects to witness something similar.

“There probably won’t be any set offense anyway,” Driesell said. “First guy who gets it will go shoot.

“This is just an exhibition. I’m not coaching these guys. I didn’t even know who I was starting until I told me. I don’t even know who the other guys on the team are yet. I’m sure I’ll find out.”

Maryland’s starting lineup, Driesell said, includes former Terps John Gilchrist (2002-05), Sean Mosley (2010-12), James Gist (2004-08) and Landon Milbourne (2006-10). Loyola’s Erik Etherly rounds out the five. Maryland fans will also see Adrian Bowie (2007-11) and James Padgett (2009-13) come off the bench.

Starters for the D.C. team are Austin Freeman (Georgetown), Henry Sims (Georgetown), Chris Wright (Georgetown), Vlad Moldoveanu (American) and Tony Taylor (George Washington).

“I think it’ll be fun,” Driesell said. “I think it’s a good idea, if it’ll help the league get going. I think it’s a great idea.”

Driesell also tossed a vote of confidence toward Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon, who enters his third season this winter.

“Mark Turgeon and I are friends,” he said. “I think he’s going to do a great job. I’ve been helping him. I told him he’s got one of the best jobs in the country. All he’s got to do is make it the UCLA of the East.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | July 26, 2013