When Lefty Driesell retired from Georgia State in 2003 during his 41st season as a college basketball coach — including 17 seasons at Maryland — his 786 victories ranked fourth all-time in Division I behind only legends Dean Smith, Bob Knight and Adolph Rupp.
Driesell was a finalist that year for the Naismith Hall of Fame, and fell short of receiving the necessary votes.
"Close is only good in horseshoes," Driesell said Friday, shortly after learning that he is a finalist for the third time.
Driesell, who turned 84 on Christmas Day, is hoping that he gets the 18 votes needed from 24 members on the honors committee to gain entrance. There are 14 finalists. The names of this year's class will be announced in April at the Final Four in Houston, with the induction scheduled for September in Springfield, Mass.
Of the college coaches still under consideration, only Eddie Sutton has more victories (806 in 37 seasons at six different schools) than Driesell. Other former college coaches under consideration include Bo Ryan (394 wins in 14 seasons at Wisconsin), who led the Badgers to back-to-back Final Fours in his last two years.
Current Michigan State coach Tom Izzo (515 wins in 21 years at Michigan State), who has taken the Spartans to the Final Four seven times and has won one national championship, in 2000, is considered one of the favorites for induction, along with former NBA stars Allen Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal.
Driesell, who went 348-159 at Maryland before being forced to resign in the aftermath of the cocaine-intoxication death of Len Bias in June of 1986, is already a member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Driesell turned little Davidson into a national power before coming to Maryland in 1969 and later took both James Madison and Georgia State to the NCAA tournament.
Asked what it would mean to gain entrance into the Naismith Hall of Fame, Driesell said: "It would mean a great deal."
"I've had enough wins, I thought, to get in," he continued. "When you wait for something, it means more. I've been waiting, praying and hoping I would get in."