Bet your last Hog button, the Lefthander still can coach.
But can he celebrate? If Charles Grice Driesell doesn't get heel-clickin' high over whippin' the Heels, if a fist fails to shoot off toward the heavens after he's just drubbed Dean, fun and games surely have gone bonkers.
So many moments in Cole Field House Wednesday night left jaws sliding along sidewalks in wonderment, not the least of which was how calmly Driesell reacted to his Terrapins playing 13 minutes and 33 seconds of brilliant basketball against the team Maryland especially loathes.
About the time another host of hoop harpies was getting ready to snap at Driesell for being, well, for being himself, he and Dean Smith--and their teams--suddenly switched roles. Carolina was in disarray, Maryland so swift and cerebral some of us started checking to see if Brad Davis, Albert King, Buck Williams and a few others had not slipped into those yucky yellow uniforms.
Nope. That still was Tip O'Neill throwing in those three-pointers, once leaping into Len Bias' arms in wild joy and amazement at what was taking place; Hungry Herman still was helping make one of the three best current college players, Michael Jordan, seem ordinary.
Snidely, the Tar Heels had been introduced as "the former No. 1 team in the country." During that second-half blitz, they seemed about seventh best in the Southern Conference. Driesell has been Smith's foil for years. If Charles Schulz were recasting Peanuts, it would be Dean pulling the football away from Lefty each autumn.
Smith and Carolina had won 15 of the previous 17 games against Maryland. Each move they made the second half Wednesday seemed more futile. Carolina pressed--and got burned; it tried to cool off Adrian Branch with traps, so other turtles soared and scored; the stat sheet showed 21 rebounds for Carolina in the second half, and all of them must have come in the final 21 seconds.
For Maryland, beating Carolina, burying Carolina in fact, is a feeling not easily described.
"Better than eating," said Mark Fothergill.
"I'd rather beat Carolina than eat for two days," he amended.
"You beat Carolina, you beat the best team in the ACC, probably in the country," said Tip O'Neill, whom his teammates also call The Senator and whom the rest of basketball knows as Jeff Adkins.
"We call him that," Pete Holbert said, "because that's kind of how he dresses and acts."
Some scoring filibuster for Adkins: 25 points on three-for-five from three-point range, seven for 10 in all, and eight of nine free throws. The assist total would have been seven, except he cut a lob pass to Ben Coleman a bit too fine and the ball plopped into the basket.
A great pass would have been two points.
An awful one netted three.
"Gotta have some luck a game like this," Senator Tip allowed.
And more of what motivates Hungry Herman Veal.
"I'm afraid to fail," he said.
That was why Veal summoned more energy than he thought possible in the second half. He was not afraid to hop up and accept the challenge when Driesell asked at halftime if anyone could check Jordan.
"Dog tired," Veal said, "but I wasn't about to get lit up for 25 points. I kinda joked with him, told him to slow down a bit."
"Yeah, I could tell he was tired," Jordan said. "He did say to slow down, but I said: 'Can't do that. I'm trying to win.' "
Jordan had 25 points for the game; he made no shots the second half until the game was beyond Carolina's reach. After the Heels had a six-point lead at halftime, who would have dreamed that with six minutes still to play Jordan would drive the length of the court for a basket that cut Maryland's advantage to 19 points?
"They killed us," Smith said.
He hasn't said such a thing five times in the last 10 years.
He said more:
"(When) we ran out of timeouts, we were supposed to be fouling to stop the clock. But we weren't even aggressive enough to do that."
Before being Veal chopped, Jordan had been consistently thrilling most of the season. Once against Villanova, he jumped and caught a pass in the free-throw lane about 10 feet from the basket. Still airborne, he repositioned the ball and his body, shot and scored.
Had Veal ever seen such dazzlement?
"About three or four times a practice from Albert King."
With all that in mind, why wasn't anyone rushing for a putty knife to peel Driesell off the Cole ceiling? One of his charms, after all, is spontaneity, being as up front as good manners allow about his rivalry with Smith.
Driesell had ranted after that one-point victory in Chapel Hill, been so livid that some thought about providing him and Carolina assistant Bill Guthridge with boxing gloves (thumbless) for the rematch. Expecting a tigerish Driesell in Cole, we thought we saw a puddytat.
Everything was understated: from his clothes to only one pre-game V-flash to the stands to sitting with his arms flopped over chairs on either side of him when everyone else was planet hopping. Assistant Mel Cartwright, who more than most knows how deeply Driesell resents Smith, tried--and failed--to coax more than a smile from his boss.
Shockingly, Driesell walked off the court as though he'd just beaten William and Mary. But then Maryland had a tougher time with William and Mary. That's the vexing thing about these Terrapins and Driesell this season: they beat Carolina and UCLA, and then lose by eight to St. Joe's, by 18 to Penn State and by 19 to Duke.
Maybe the next salvo at Lefty will be: he can't win the little ones.
Very likely, there was a method to that drabness. What he was telling us, by saying nothing out of the ordinary, might have been that he's been here before, had lots of glorious victories over a 23-year career and expects a few more. Perhaps this season.
If Driesell's message to his players is to be excited over beating a very good team, but not to act as though that cannot possibly happen again, it's one of his best.