SPRINGFIELD, MASS. — Former UMD men’s basketball coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday evening.

During his 41 seasons as a head coach, including 17 at the University of Maryland, he amassed 786 wins and is the only coach in Division I history to win at least 100 games at four different schools. From 1969–86, he built Maryland into a perennial contender in Atlantic Coast Conference, recruiting greats such as Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams and Len Bias.

Taking the stage at Springfield Symphony Hall, he entertained an enthusiastic crowd filled with basketball royalty, referring to his wife as the “greatest recruit I’ve ever had” and thanked all the players, coaches and supporters who helped him along the way.Lefty Driesell

“This is probably the happiest day of my life,” he said. “I’m really happy to accept this honor from the Hall of Fame. It’s something I’ve prayed about for a long time.”

Driesell joined Ray Allen, Maurice Cheeks, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Tina Thompson, Dino Radja, Charlie Scott, Ora Mae Washington, Rod Thorn, Rick Welts and Katie Smith in the Naismith Class of 2018 enshrinement. 

At a brunch at the Hall of Fame museum on Friday morning, Driesell’s players from Maryland, Davidson and James Madison University reminisced about their playing days under Driesell. 

 “The thing that I’m most proud of with Lefty is he was willing to stand up for what he believed in when it was not easy,” said McMillen, a former NBA player and U.S. congressman.  “He brought Mike Maloy to Davidson as its first black player in 1966 and brought on George Raveling as the first black coach in the ACC. Those qualities really defined him. He believed in social justice and believed that everybody deserves a chance.”

In 1960 Driesell joined the collegiate ranks when he accepted the head coaching position at Davidson College. He posted a 9­–14 record in his first season—one of only two losing seasons in his career. In nine seasons at Davidson, Driesell led the Wildcats to three Southern Conference Championships and posted a 176–65 record.

Under his leadership at Maryland, the Terps won the National Invitational Tournament in 1972 and their second-ever ACC tournament championship in 1984. He finished his career at Maryland with a 348–159 record.

He is also credited with creating the nation’s first “Midnight Madness,” a tradition now embraced by almost every college basketball team in the country. As the legend goes, Driesell held a one-mile run at the track in front of 1,000 fans around then-Byrd Stadium at 12:03 a.m. on Oct. 15, 1971, the first possible day to begin practice. At UMD today, the event has become a pep rally kicking off the women’s and men’s seasons and is called Maryland Madness.

Following a two-year hiatus after Maryland, Driesell was named head coach at James Madison University. He led the Dukes to five regular season championships in the Colonial Athletic Association and a berth in the 1994 NCAA Tournament.

Six years later, he became one of just three coaches to take four different programs to the NCAA tournament when he coached Georgia State to the Big Dance following the 2000–01 season. The Panthers, who finished 29­­–5, upset Wisconsin in the first round of the tournament before falling to Maryland. Driesell won 103 games in six seasons at Georgia State.

In 2007 Driesell was named to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.                  

“You don’t get many opportunities like this in life where you get to be around a living legend and be a part of something so well deserved and long overdue,” Maryland Athletic Director Damon Evans said at the brunch. “We’re so fortunate at the University of Maryland to have someone like Coach Driesell as part of our history and tradition and to let us know what it means to be successful at the highest level. What is so evident is the number of lives that he has touched and the lives he has changed throughout the years. I just want to say: Congratulations, Coach, we are forever proud of you.”