Maryland Coach Charles G. Driesell made it official yesterday: his long-suffering public can go back to calling him "Lefty."
Driesell settled the question of his proper manner of address at a weekly news conference to discuss Maryland's upcoming game against North Carolina State. Asked once and for all how he should be referred to, he said he didn't mind being called by the nickname that had followed him throughout his career -- until this season.
Driesell had said just prior to the season that he wanted to abandon the nickname because he felt it inappropriate for a 54-year-old coach to be called "Lefty." He circulated an interoffice memo requesting the use of "Charles G." in Terrapins publications.
"That was blown way out of proportion," he said. "Call me whatever you want."
For starters, call him brave. A more pressing question than his name is how Maryland might still manage to get an NCAA tournament bid. Driesell has figured out a possible formula, and it reads like this: think wishfully, talk up the schedule, and win most of the remaining Atlantic Coast Conference games.
"I'm not that concerned about the NCAA invitation," he said. "If we deserve one, we'll get one."
All bravado aside, however, Driesell acknowledged it's going to be difficult to earn one.
The Terrapins (12-10, 2-6) have six conference games left and four are on the road starting with North Carolina State on Thursday in Raleigh. That's typical of the degree of difficulty their schedule has presented all season, and to make the NCAAs they need to stay at least in sixth place in the conference ahead of Clemson and Wake Forest, the only ACC teams they have beaten. Or maybe, somehow, win the conference tournament and pray.
The Terrapins have yet to win an ACC game on the road, and there is just one nonconference breather left, against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Monday.
With the rematch against the Wolfpack (16-6, 6-3), the Terrapins start the conference homestretch, going on to meet Clemson on the road Saturday, followed by No. 1 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and No. 5 Georgia Tech at College Park in succession before finishing up with rematches against Wake Forest in Greensboro, N.C., and Virginia at College Park.
"We've got six games left, seven if you count the ACC tournament, and plenty of chances to get in the NCAAs," Driesell said. "But we've got plenty of chances to get out of it, too. If we win some of our last six, I think the NCAA is going to put an emphasis on the schedule. If we finish ahead of Clemson and Wake Forest we'll get a bid. If we don't, we won't."
As for how capable the Terrapins are of pulling off this feat, one encouraging sign was their 78-69 victory over Clemson last weekend, when they had three teammates score in double figures to help out all-America forward Len Bias. They will need those kinds of numbers against the Wolfpack, which won at Cole Field House in January, 67-55.
"We're not playing below our potential anymore," Driesell said. "We're playing about as well as we can play. I'd like to see us get a little more fluid offensively and distribute the points some more, but we're getting better at it."