Lefty Driesell actually said this yesterday: "This ain't no big deal. It's just another game."
And Normandy was just another invasion.
Dean Smith actually said this yesterday: "This is no different than the first time I coached against Maryland. It's just another important ACC game."
And Scarlett O'Hara was just another woman.
Like it or not, Driesell and Smith meet tonight in a game for the ages. When North Carolina and Maryland face off at 9 p.m. in Cole Field House (WDCA-TV-20) it will be the 38th meeting in their long, bitter and storied rivalry. And this one has a special added twist: Driesell seeking his 500th coaching victory against the man who has tormented him for years, beating him 29 times in 37 games.
The game is significant to both 1985 teams: Maryland, ranked 20th, is 19-7 and 5-3 in the ACC, the same league record as Carolina, which is 18-5 overall and ranked 13th. The winner tonight will close to within a half-game of conference leader Georgia Tech.
But this is far more than just another important February game. This one is for history. "I'll be glad to congratulate Lefty on winning his 500th," Smith said. "We'd just like to delay it for one more game."
He won't admit it, but Driesell would like nothing more than to achieve the milestone here, against the man with whom he has dueled for most of his professional life.
Yesterday though, Driesell was practically pleading with people not to hype this most hypable of matches. "If I get the 500th then I'll talk about it," he said. "But until then I wish y'all wouldn't make such a big deal of it. It's like a jinx or something. I've always said that it ain't me against Dean, it's Maryland against North Carolina. I've never once scored a point and neither has he. Anyway, if it was Dean against me, I haven't done too well."
Indeed. Since they first met in 1968 in the Eastern Regional final (a 70-66 victory for North Carolina over Driesell's Davidson team), Smith's record against Driesell includes winning the last three in a row and nine of the last 10.
"Is that our record?" Smith asked innocently yesterday. "I didn't realize we had met that many times."
They have met that many times. They have met time and again on the recruiting trail -- each stealing a great player from the other at the last second on at least one occasion -- and they have met time and again on the court. Like it or not, their careers are linked: Driesell has coached 25 years; Smith has coached 24. Driesell thought he had Charlie Scott locked up for Davidson in 1966 and Smith took him away. Smith thought he had Tom McMillen locked up in 1970 and Driesell took him away.
On the all-time list of competitors, men who simply cannot stomach losing, they are 1 and 1-A in no particular order. "I guess to stay in coaching this long you have to be that way," Smith admitted. "How many years has he been at Maryland?"
Sixteen. And through those years there have been memorable moments galore. Driesell says his two losses to Smith while he was still at Davidson are the most painful because they kept him from reaching the Final Four. In the second of those games -- played, ironically, in Cole Field House -- Scott hit the winning shot.
But the rivalry has grown to this level since Driesell moved to the ACC and began facing Smith at least twice a season. Only once has he won both regular-season games (1980), but most of their games have been close, many have been controversial and a few were downright bitter.
A few moments stick out:
In 1974, Driesell and Maryland crushed Smith and North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals. After the game, when someone asked Terrapin center Len Elmore why his team was able to get easy baskets most of the night, he answered, "They (the Tar Heels) were so busy pointing at each other after they scored that we just threw the ball down court and scored."
In 1975, Maryland gave North Carolina its worst defeat in Carmichael Auditorium (96-74) and to this day, Driesell talks about that game. "We gave them the worst licking they ever got in Carmichael," he said yesterday. "I remember that one." So, apparently does Smith. Since that game, his record against Driesell is 18-3.
In 1976, North Carolina beat Maryland, 95-93, in overtime and Driesell, furious over a late missed call, chased the referees into the catacombs of Carmichael. One of the officials, Jim Howell, was so upset by the incident he quit the ACC the following day.
In 1980, North Carolina assistant coach Eddie Fogler and Maryland assistant coach John Kochan had to be held apart in the hallway before the game in Carmichael after Kochan said something about a North Carolina player.
Later that season, at Maryland, Driesell called time out with one second left and his team up by one when UNC had no timeouts left. Maryland won the game but Fogler couldn't resist getting on Driesell for calling time, yelling, "Thanks for the timeout," at Driesell as the teams headed down the runway. Driesell had to be stopped from going after Fogler.
In 1982, the rivalry really turned bitter. Driesell had one of his weakest teams (16-13) and came into Carmichael having lost starting center Charles Pittman with an injury in the previous game. The Terrapins almost beat the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels. Afterward Smith, after noting that Maryland had played a great game, said, "Sometimes a team can rally and play one great game without a key player."
Informed of only the second half of the quote, Driesell angrily chastised Smith for being ungracious. That spring, at the ACC meeting, Smith showed up with copies of newspaper stories quoting Driesell as calling Smith ungracious. When Smith asked Driesell about the quotes, Driesell flew into a rage.
"He's just won the national championship and I had a terrible year and he's coming at me with newspaper articles," Driesell said that summer. "I told him to just get away from me."
Driesell also wrote Smith an angry letter telling him to stay away from him in the future and not to try to shake hands with him after they played the next season. Smith wrote back saying he would "always shake hands" at the end of a game. Both men were 50 years old at the time.
As fate would have it, the next time the teams met (at North Carolina), the game ended with Michael Jordan blocking a last-second layup by Chuck Driesell that would have won the game. Chuck had been inserted by his father for that final play after not having played one second during the game.
When Smith tried to approach the already enraged Driesell to shake hands, Driesell whirled around and screamed at Smith to get away from him. When Smith tried to grab Driesell's hand, Driesell angrily pushed him away. At that point, North Carolina assistant Bill Guthridge ran straight toward Driesell, fists clenched. The only thing that prevented a melee between the two staffs was Carolina sports information director Rick Brewer's flying body block that prevented Guthridge from reaching Driesell.
"That was one incident, it's in the past, it's over and done with, I don't want to talk about it," Driesell said yesterday. "That's the only time in 25 years of coaching I didn't shake hands with the other coach and I had already told Dean before the game I wasn't going to do it."
"Funny," Smith said, "I've just blocked the incident from my mind."
Last year's incident occurred at College Park. Having decided to shake hands with Smith after the game, Driesell gave Smith a behind-the-head, running slap that had to sting. "I was just giving him a low-five," Driesell said later.
Perhaps the most succinct measure of the deep-seated feud between the two men can be found in the fact that, after all these years, Smith still pronounces Driesell's name, "Dreyezell." The Maryland coach pronounces it "Dris-sell."
"Does he say it that way?" Smith said yesterday. "That's his Virginia accent.
"I suppose if you work really hard at your vocation and you're a competitor and you play the same guy over and over and over again, you do some things you wish you hadn't done," Smith said. "We've played each other a lot of times."
Yesterday, Driesell was doing his best to stay as low key as possible on the eve of the game.
"Sometimes if you want to beat somebody so bad, you can't beat them," he said. "You can want something too much. I know over the years I've been up too tight for some games and I think it may have hurt us. I don't want to make this a big deal. I just want the team to go out and play well. I don't want them uptight. I haven't said a word to them about 500."
It doesn't matter. They all know. And everyone jammed into Cole Field House tonight will know.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a friend of Driesell, conceded Saturday after denying Driesell his 500th that he had a scenario in mind for this game. "He should win it at the buzzer against Dean," Krzyzewski said, "And Chuck should hit the winning shot."
Driesell listened today as that comment was repeated. His face softened and his answer was barely a whisper.
"That would be nice," he said. "Real nice."