The scene is set. The champagne and the caviar are ready. Lefty Driesell is coming home Saturday in search of his 500th victory as a college basketball coach.
"I'd like to win my 500th at Duke. That would be special," Driesell said today. "Duke is where I played, it's where I started out in basketball. I have a lot of memories there, most of them good. I'd like to have another one."
It will not be easy. Driesell will bring his 20th-ranked Maryland team into packed, rocking and rolling Cameron Indoor Stadium at 3 p.m. Saturday (WJLA-TV-7) to face fifth-ranked Duke. The Blue Devils are 16-4 overall and 5-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, one game behind league-leading Maryland (19-6, 5-2).
"We know Maryland is going to come in here excited," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said today. "It's an important game because of the league race, but Lefty going for this 500th, I'm sure, makes it a little more special for them. All we want to do is get our sixth league win."
For Duke, this is the first of five straight conference games at home. The Blue Devils have completed their league road schedule with a 4-3 record. They are 1-1 at home.
"They should be in the driver's seat because the rest of their games are at home and they don't lose there very much," North Carolina Coach Dean Smith said. "But this year you can't call winning at home automatic."
In fact, ACC teams have an 18-15 record at home and everyone has lost at least once at home. Maryland, which has five road games left, is 1-1 on the road after Wednesday's 64-62 victory over Wake Forest. With two of their remaining road opponents -- Virginia and Clemson -- extremely beatable, a sixth conference victory Saturday would put the Terrapins in command in the scrambled league race.
"Winning at Wake did a lot for our confidence," Driesell said. "But if we could go into Duke at this stage and get a win, I think our players would believe they could win anywhere."
The Terrapins won the first meeting between the teams, 78-76, in overtime. That night, Maryland came from 14 points down at halftime, sent the game into overtime on a jump shot by Adrian Branch with three seconds left and then controlled the extra period.
In that game, Driesell benched starting point guard Keith Gatlin for the entire second half as reserve Jeff Adkins played 39 minutes, getting 16 points and eight assists. Adkins played 32 minutes to Gatlin's 14 against Wake Forest, but Driesell said today that Gatlin probably will start Saturday. He will not hesitate to bring Adkins in if Gatlin has trouble with Duke's quick guards, Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker.
Driesell said he will start Terry Long at center and use forward Speedy Jones as a reserve, as he did in two victories earlier this week.
If he does not win here, Driesell will try for his 500th victory Wednesday at home against his old nemesis, North Carolina's Smith.
Even apart from what the game means to his team, Driesell said he would rather win No. 500 here. For years, Duke students have made him a special target for their antics and they are undoubtedly planning something special for this occasion.
"I know the students are going to be ready for this one and I hope that I'm ready for it, too," said Driesell, who says he will drink champagne and eat caviar Saturday night if his team wins. "I haven't told the players anything special because every time I try to get them fired up, they play terrible. So I'm just telling them it's just another game."