Lefty Driesell talks about National College Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Tom McMillen

November 22, 2013
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Lefty Driesell called me out of the blue early Wednesday morning with some stories to tell about Tom McMillen.

“Hey, did you know he’s being inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame,” he said, pleasantries barely exchanged. “He’s going to be the first Maryland player ever in there.”

Indeed, the news of McMillen’s induction was released in early April, but on Sunday he and six others will be enshrined during a ceremony in Kansas City. Driesell, the legendary Maryland coach who recruited McMillen over an avalanche of other suitors, was disappointed he couldn’t attend, his body not much suited for commercial air travel these days, but he wanted to talk about the former all-American big man just the same.

“I’ve been trying to get him in there for years,” Driesell said. “Hey, how many Rhodes Scholars they got here?”

Before McMillen? Just one: three-time all-American, NBA star and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.

Driesell has another connection in the class of 2013, too. George Raveling, the first assistant coach hire he made upon arriving in College Park, will also be inducted as a “contributor,” for his work as Nike’s director of international basketball. Raveling played at Villanova, coached at Washington State, Iowa and Southern California and helped lead the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in 1984.

“It’s a big deal for me, anyway,” Driesell said. “I think the Maryland people should be proud of it, that we’re getting two … one a player, one a coach in the Hall of Fame.”

But back to McMillen, who is on the Maryland Board of Trustees and a is vocal presence in university affairs, including the school’s Big Ten move. Before he came to Maryland — where he was named all-ACC three times and averaged a career double-double — he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high schooler, ranked as the nation’s best big man behind, the story notes, Len Elmore.

That article, written for the Feb. 16, 1970 issue by Peter Carry, is well worth a read. Seriously, if McMillen was staying stuff like this in high school, no wonder he became a U.S. congressman and Rhodes Scholar:

“I want to go to a school that’s concerned with the students’ problems,” he says. “But I wouldn’t want to go to a place like Columbia where they have had open violence. I feel an atmosphere like that would detract from my experience as a student and a player.

“Still, I think a school should be interested in getting things done. I read National Review and I think there are some good ideas in there, but I wouldn’t want to be called a conservative. I don’t want people to think I’m against progress. I can’t see having my name associated with a place like Alabama, where they really haven’t faced up to-problems, or a school like Georgia in a state where Governor Maddox actually seems to be against progress.

“I hear a lot of older people saying that students shouldn’t dissent. They tell me things like: ‘We never did; we respected our faculty.’ Well, today we have to evaluate our own situation. Times are changing and we shouldn’t simply imitate older persons on student unrest and things like that.”

So go read that, and read about how McMillen discussed wheat-germ oil, ordered snails and kangaroo-tail soup, and averaged 46.2 points per game while shooting 77 percent from the field.

“He was a straight-A student, I don’t know what he was in the Catholic church … choir boy or something,” Driesell said. “He was a great kid, made straight A’s, did the same thing at Maryland. I always made my players write down goals. He said he wanted to be a Rhodes Scholar. And he said he wanted to be an all-American basketball player. I said Tom, pick one or the other. Everybody would be reading the paper on road trips. He was always reading the Wall Street Journal and Life Magazine.

“I think he made one B the whole time he was at Maryland. He was complaining, saying the teacher was a hippie. She used to come to class barefoot. Tom was Tom. He was serious about everything. But he said he didn’t have time to run for student president.”

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 | November 22, 2013