There was no one he tangled with more often than Smith. He was completely paranoid about Smith, convinced that there wasn’t a trick in the book Dean wouldn’t pull to find a way to beat him. Dave Pritchell, his assistant coach from years ago, always told a story about walking into the bathroom at halftime of a game in Chapel Hill to find Lefty standing on top of a toilet, peering at the ceiling.
“Coach, what are you doing?” he asked.
“Seeing if Dean’s got the place bugged,” Driesell answered.
Now, Smith is ill, fighting dementia. Lefty calls Linda Woods, Smith’s longtime secretary, about once a week to see how his old tormentor is feeling.
He would also gladly sit down with Williams to discuss last winter’s feud over the court-naming. “I like Gary and I respect Gary,” he said. “I think he did a great job as the coach here. I just felt like it was my players who built the program . . . ”
He stopped and laughed: “I’m not going there again. It’s over.”
Driesell said last year that no coach should have a court named for him. When it was pointed out to him that his argument felt a tad specious, seeing as how the court at Georgia State is named for him, the un-careful Lefty showed up again. “And they did it after I’d coached there five years. How many coaches anybody do that for?” he said.
On Friday, after he had taken Joyce, his wife of 60 years, back to Ledo’s for a bacon-topped pizza, he went to Maryland’s practice. Coach Mark Turgeon had asked him to come and talk to his team. “I’m gonna tell ’em they better graduate,” he said. He paused for a second and added, “And they better play better defense.”
It was more than 26 years ago that Driesell stood in an empty Cole Field House to announce he was resigning as Maryland’s coach, having been made the scapegoat by Chancellor John Slaughter in the wake of Len Bias’s death. When he walked through the tunnel that morning, arms around Joyce and daughter Pam, it was about as sad a sight as you could possibly see.
Saturday, as he walked to midcourt at the Comcast Center with no cane in his hands and Joyce by his side, with the entire arena on its feet and the cheers finally ringing in his ears at Maryland again, it was also worth a tear or two.
Happy ones. At last.
For more by John Feinstein, go to www.washingtonpost.com/