Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
How significant is it that former Terps coaches Gary Williams and Lefty Driesell are both expected to be at Cole Field House for Maryland Madness tonight?
It’s very significant.
For a long period, there wasn’t much unity between Driesell-era players and Maryland during William’s tenure as coach.
Driesell was forced out after the 1986 death of star player Len Bias, and many of his players and supporters believe he never got his due. Some kept their distance from the school.
When he became coach, Mark Turgeon sought to close those fissures. It helped that the school honored Driesell at halftime of last year’s Maryland-Clemson game.
North Carolina runs a promotion on its video board during home games in which players from various eras proudly say: "I'm a Tar Heel." That's the sort of unity Maryland is looking for.
The school wants all of its former players to be ambassadors for the program.
Last April 16, a number of Driesell’s former players attended a ceremony dedicating a bas-relief of Driesell to hang on a Comcast Center wall next to a portion of the Cole floor.
The two former coaches have always been cordial to one another. But Williams couldn’t have been pleased when Driesell objected to the idea of naming the Comcast Center floor for Williams in 2012.
Driesell said it wasn’t fair to his players to put a coach’s name on the floor.
Should Maryland rename Cole Field House the Driesell-Cole Field House, after its former coach?
Don Markus: On the same day that Alex Len announced last spring he was turning pro, the University of Maryland honored Driesell by unveiling the bas-relief sculpture in his likeness in the lobby of Comcast Center.
The Len news conference attracted a handful of reporters covering the men’s basketball team. The Driesell news conference that night brought back a who’s who of former Terps.
Though I had been around the school since Driesell's last season as coach, what I witnessed that night showed me the impact Driesell had on the Maryland basketball program.
Mark Turgeon said at the news conference that he probably would have not been interested in the job after Williams retired if not for what Driesell created decades before.
Williams wasn’t there that night, after Driesell spoke out against the court-naming in Williams’ honor at Comcast Center. Driesell had said that he didn't think the court should be named in anyone's honor or perhaps that women's coach Brenda Frese should share in it.
With Driesell expected to be on hand Friday night when Maryland Madness returns to Cole Field House for the first time since the Comcast Center opened in 2002, I think it’s time to get things moving in order to give the old lefthander his proper place in College Park.
It’s not just with a nice brass piece of art tucked away in the lobby of Comcast Center. Put his name on the building Driesell helped turn into one of the great college basketball venues in the country.
I am not suggesting taking the name of the esteemed William P. Cole Jr. off the building. (He was a U.S. Congressman and U.S. Customs Court judge who was both a Maryland graduate and a former member of the board of regents.)
That would be like taking the name of California oil tycoon and philanthropist Edwin W. Pauley off his pavilion at UCLA or former Duke coach Eddie Cameron’s name off the gym he helped design at Duke. In both those cases, the basketball courts at those venerable gyms have been named for the school’s most legendary coaches, John Wooden at UCLA and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
I think it’s fair to say that if Williams has a court named in his honor at Comcast Center, which he helped create by turning the Terps from a scandal-ridden program into national champions, then Driesell should be honored similarly. While Maryland never became “the UCLA of the East,” as he promised with his trademark bravado after coming from Davidson in 1969, then at least he built the Terps into an ACC power.
I know that Driesell was something of a polarizing figure on campus during portions of his Maryland career, and his departure a few months after the death of star player Len Bias from a cocaine overdose was not the way he or his fans wanted him to go out. His detractors thought it was long overdue.
But unlike some coaches who might have completedly separated himself from the university after he was forced out the way he was, Driesell has made peace with the school and, from the way Kevin Anderson talked of Driesell the night the bas-relief sculpture was unveiled, Maryland has made peace with Lefty as well.
Driesell’s fits most, if not all the criteria, for having a building named for him at Maryland.
He has been gone from the university since 1988. (Buildings can't be named after university employees or those who have worked there in the past three years.)
He is very much alive. (Buildings can be named posthumously, but the person has to be deceased at least two years.)
While some might question a few things Driesell did over the years, I believe him to be of the highest personal integrity. His teams never went on NCAA probation during a period when others in the ACC and across the country did on a regular basis.
And, though he was well-compensated, Driesell did a lot of charitable work on behalf of the school and his church and community.
And, of course, he made contributions to the University of Maryland and to the state and is known to the university community. When you say Lefty around College Park, the first person that comes to mind isn’t Phil Mickelson or Steve Carlton.
I talked to Driesell a couple of weeks ago when it was first announced that Maryland Madness was moving back to Cole, and he was thrilled for a chance to walk out that tunnel again, flashing the victory sign. I broached the idea of writing about how the building should be named in his honor.
“I’m not going to come out and lobby for anything like that, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” he said.
Judge Cole only lived a couple of years after the building was named after him. Driesell is 81, and from what he says and I could gather talking to him, he's in pretty good shape. Any excuse to bring Lefty back to campus is a good one, and he apparently has a great relationship with Turgeon.
So let’s get this movement -- and this party -- started.
I even have the perfect date to announce it -- next year’s Maryland Madness.
Where does Maryland stand with Gilman standout Melvin Keihn?
Good news: Maryland made his top four, along with Virginia Tech, Virginia and Rutgers.
Bad news: In that top four, Maryland is ahead of only Rutgers.
Virginia Tech and Virginia lead the pack, with 247Sports going as far as to list the two Commonwealth schools apart from Keihn's other pursuers. Even more damning, of the site's list of predictions offered on Keihn's college choice, seven analysts have picked the Hokies, two the Cavaliers ... and none the Terps.
Recruitments can change at the drop of a hat (or, in one local lineman's case, maybe the administering of a beatdown), but you get the sense that Maryland is in thanks-but-no-thanks territory with the defensive end/linebacker. He has visited College Park more than any other campus, so his familiarity is there. He watched the Terps take down West Virginia at M&T Bank Stadium, so his feel for the Maryland coaching staff is there.
At this point, what he needs to know about the Terps, he probably already does. It's what he makes of that information, and the impression other schools make on him, that will determine whether he travels down Interstate 95 for college or heads somewhere farther.
Either way, after watching this Comcast SportsNet Baltimore feature, you could probably stand to root for him in a Duke basketball jersey. High school and the college application process were tough enough. Imagine having to figure it all out the way Keihn has.
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