At the beginning of the current college basketball season, the coach at the University of Maryland announced that he no longer wanted to be called Lefty Driesell; from now on, he would be Charles G. Driesell. "I'm 53," he said, "and I don't like to be called by a nickname."

The papers went along with this request, and so there it was every time you turned to the sports pages and read the story on the Maryland game: "Charles G. Driesell." And every time, it made you hesitate a moment and wonder whether you'd stumbled into a story on the IMF or the superfund -- the sort of place frequented by people with middle initials. Now, after three months, the coach has finally given up on it. This week he let it be known that it was once again okay to call him Lefty.

We wonder what ever got into him in the first place, trying to inflict notions of middle-aged dignity on the game of basketball. College basketball coaching is one of the few places where 50-year- old men in coats and ties are expected to behave like maniacs. They can be seen every night sweating and shouting, throwing off their coats and overturning chairs, screaming at referees, tussling with fans and screaming complicated instructions at the Adam's apples of seven-foot 19-year-olds.

There are some coaches who behave like normal 50-year-old men, but the fact of their doing so is considered noteworthy, and is usually included in any mention of them. Remember, this is a game in which alumni of great universities seek ways to install tall sophomores in subsidized sports cars without anyone's being the wiser; in which philosophy majors in the stands throw garbage on the court and carry on like perfect idiots.

The incongruity of the "Charles G. Driesell" business must have weighed on his team. They have won only two more games than they've lost this season, and their record in the Atlantic Coast Conference is dismal. Most people consider it unlikely that they'll make it into the NCAA tournament, but we think there's still a chance. The name change may be all they needed to go on a season- ending win streak. Perhaps, like all the rest of us, they've just been waiting for Lefty.