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The passing of Lefty Driesell over the weekend

The Adam Gold Show / Adam Gold
The Truth Network Radio
February 19, 2024 3:24 pm

The passing of Lefty Driesell over the weekend

The Adam Gold Show / Adam Gold

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February 19, 2024 3:24 pm

John Feinstein, Author, on Lefty and his impact on college sports; as well as who he was as a person.

What made him who he was, as a coach, his personality, etc? Why does John think may be the reason people didn’t give Lefty credit? Why does John say THIS player was “absolutely broken”?


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For the ones who get it done. So over the weekend, I saw the news about the passing of, I mean, it's not just Maryland, but that's where I knew him from. University of Maryland's legendary coach, the Hall of Famer, Lefty Drizell, who passed away at age 91. And I think he just celebrated a birthday not that long ago. And nobody knew him that I know that knew him better than John Feinstein, who joins us now on The Adam Gold Show, author of thousands of books. None yet about Lefty.

No, I've always said, Adam, that Lefty was a video, not a book. You really have to see him and hear him to appreciate him. And he turned 92, by the way, on Christmas Day. And I led my column with in the post with what I thought was the best description I ever heard of Lefty among many from my old colleague and mentor, Ken Denlinger, who wrote that Lefty was God's unique Christmas present to the world in 1931.

I think that's just a great description. What made first of all, he was a great coach. What what made him what made him who he was because the coach, the personality, all of it, all of it.

First of all, what's underrated about Lefty is that he was very smart because of that Virginia country accent and the the angst and the I don't know, you knows and things like that. People miss that he was very smart and a great you know, all great coaches are great communicators. And that starts with a college coach with when you go in the home and recruit someone because you recruit the whole family, you know, not just the player, but mom and dad and the high school coach for these days, the coach.

And you have to give them a reason, especially if they're a great player. Tom McMillan was the highest recruited player in the country. So is Moses Malone, who was going to go to Maryland until he went to the ABA. You have to convince the kid and his family or his advisors, quote unquote, that you're the coach they want to play for. Because, you know, as well as I do, Adam, nobody goes to a college. No athlete goes to a college.

They go to a coach. And great players went to play for Lefty. And one of the things that bothered me reading some of the stories over the weekend or reading some of the responses to my column was, you know, these players never graduated this that the other thing. Len Elmore went to Harvard Law School. Tom McMillan was a Rhodes Scholar. Greg Manning was as smart as any athlete I ever met. And Buck Williams is the Hall of Fame human.

Forget about the fact that he belongs in the basketball Hall of Fame. And when I covered Maryland right after I got out of college, they were a joy to cover because he recruited good kids. And they were fun to talk to and to write about and be around.

And nobody was better to be around than Lefty. I mean, if I spent 10 minutes with him every day, I had a story every day. One of my favorite stories was when I first started covering the team, I would go to practice almost every day.

In those days, you could go to practice as a reporter. And I was sitting on the floor one day as practice to get ready to start. And Lefty comes over, says, John, you got to actually set science team back then.

He always called me. And he said, you got to go sit in the upper deck of the stands in Colefield House. And I said, no, lefty, I want to sit here. He says, no, he didn't let you sit on the floor, does he? And I said, no, he does it. He said, well, I don't want I don't want you sitting on the floor because you're going to hear me curse. And I said, Lefty, I could sit in Byrd Stadium and I hear you curse. And Dean, of course, never cursed. I mean, that's right.

That's one of those legends. It is true. And he said, yeah, you're probably right. Go ahead.

Sit wherever you want to. And that was the thing. You could argue with Lefty and sometimes you win, sometimes you lost. But I still remember when I first when Jerry Faust first became the coach at Notre Dame. OK. It was a great story.

Right. You know, the high school coach, seven day a week to church Catholic, really nice guy. And like a lot of the national media, by then I was a national reporter. I went to his opening game and Jerry's driving, driving around campus before the game in a golf cart saying hello to everybody. Hey, I'm Jerry Fouts. Nice to meet you. We're going to kick LSU's butt today.

Go Irish. And so like everybody else in the country, I wrote this piece about how great a guy was and what a great story it was and how nobody had liked Dan Devine, even though he won a national championship level. So the day at the day the story runs left, he left. He would always call me at seven in the morning because he knew I was single and I was sleeping in. And he'd always call and say, five feet.

Wake up, son. I got to get on you. And so he calls me and I slept in September.

What could I have done wrong already? And he goes, he goes, you wrote that guy, Jerry Fouts, Dan Devine. Dan Devine won a national championship. You write that guy. Jerry Fouts is Duke Rockne. That's the one game. What have you got against Jerry Fouts?

He said nothing, but I got plenty against you. So as you know, four years go by and left in the house. I think Fouts best record was seven and six or something. And it did not go well.

And they lose the air force for like the third year in a row. And there are out foul signs in the dorms and the kids are chanting, you know, out spouse during the game. Phone rings again, seven in the morning and voices. I see. I got a question for you.

Your boy Fouts still riding around out there in a golf cart or you get himself an armor tank? He can't resist a guy like that. No, he's. Why do you think John Feinstein is joining us here in the Adam Gold show? Why do you think, other than he never won a national championship, why do you think people didn't give Lefty the credit? Is it just the drawl or what? What?

What stopped Lefty from getting the drawl? Well, look at who he coached against in the ACC through 17 years. Dean, Jim Valvano, Mike Shesky, Bill Foster, Terry Holland, who is a student, has a player of his at Davidson.

There were so many great normal float. There were so many great coaches that I mean, you and I are old enough to remember that ACC and the wars that that were games. And he lost what until Duke in Kentucky, what was the greatest college basketball game of all time? The final against NC State. And it's all right.

That's all right. With Lefty's luck, of course, that was the last year only one team could go to the NCAA. And state went one one in overtime, one or three, one hundred. I was at that game. I was a fresh and I got to sit in one of the Washington Post seats right at mid court, as opposed to where the students at where you can see, because Ken Denlinger had a kid who was sick and had to leave. So I sat in his seat and I was right there at mid court. There's four or five minutes left in the game.

It's tied for the forty seventh time or whatever. And they're inbounding right in front of me. And the players start kind of jockeying and gets a little physical before the inbounds pass. And Hank Nichols, the great referee, before he ends the ball to I think it was John Lucas inbounding. He turns to all the players.

He said, stop. Not in this game. So sorry about that. Even the referees understood what a special game it was. Sure.

And you know, the story that lefty went on the state bus. Yeah. After the game and said to the state players, you know, that's a great game. I'm proud of you. I'm proud of my guy.

Thank you. Better go win the national championship. And how many coaches think how many coaches would do that? And he just lost problems. Probably the toughest loss loss of his career. And he still took the time and had the class to go on the bus and congratulate state players.

John financing is joining us here on the Adam Gold show to I guess the last the last part of lefties era at Maryland was the passing of Len Bias. And it's sad that he was really scapegoated for all of that. And even more sad that the university screwed up the the next hire because they should have never had to have never. Yeah, they absolutely did. They should have never hired Bob Wade. Not that Bob Wade in a different set of circumstances couldn't have been good.

That was just there was no spot for somebody with no college experience to follow lefty drizzle. But what that that I know you spoke to him a lot, you know, since that, you know, not since then, but but you know, around that time, what was what did that do? Without the ones like you who work tirelessly to keep things running, everything would suddenly stop. Hospitals, factories, schools and power plants.

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Start your dollar a month trial today at Shopify dot com slash records. To lefty, on top of the fact that you saw a player you loved, you know, basically take his own life. Yeah, he he was broken hearted.

I don't think there's any other way to describe it. Even though he graduated from Duke, he was through and through a Maryland guy by then. Yeah, he'd been there 17 years and and had done great things.

He had not won the national championship or gone to the Final Four, as you point out, and some of that was bad luck. But he was absolutely broken hearted. I was there the day he announced his resignation and he barely got he didn't speak off the cuff. He read a statement basically. I'm sorry, I don't know what's wrong with me. It's OK. But as soon as he got through speaking, I walked out the tunnel with him at Cole Fieldhouse. You remember that tunnel?

Absolutely. And and I walked out with he was with Joyce and his kids. And I started to ask him a question, you know, because I never like to ask questions in press conferences. And I just looked at him and the tears were running down his face and I couldn't bring myself to ask him anything.

And he finally turned to me and he said, John, he rarely called me, John, thanks for thanks for coming. You know, and I meant a lot to him that many of us who had covered him because I wasn't covering the team by that point were there. And he was a hugely emotional guy. And I don't just mean angry.

Everybody thinks of the lefty stomp and all that. But he was just a very emotional guy. And he came he came to my mother's funeral. So did Gary waves for that. I mean, that meant a hell of a lot to me.

But that was who left he was. And I got in trouble at one point over something I'd written about John Thompson because John Thompson was a sacred cow at the Post back then and was obviously a great coach. And I got three phone calls that morning when word got around that I had been suspended for a week. Three phone calls that morning. One was Jim Valvano.

One was Mike Krzyzewski and the other was lefty Tressel. And again, I can't tell you how much that meant to me because it was a low moment for me. I didn't think I deserved I didn't think I'd done anything wrong. I had I was the first one to use the reference Hoya paranoia. And as an end of the school at the time who happened to play tennis with Katharine Graham, the Post publisher, called and accused me being a racist for writing that. And the funny thing was, the person who most came to my defense was John was John Thompson. He called Katharine Graham. He said, let me tell you something about him referring to me. Yeah, he's a pain in the neck.

Oh, he didn't say neck. Yeah. But the one thing I know he did not is a racist. And but, you know, moments like that mean a lot to you. Sure. And and left it. And of course, I ended my column, which was arguably my favorite lefty story. And, you know, all of us who knew him had him literally had a million of them, it felt like.

Sure. But back in the days when a reporter could still go on a recruiting visit with a coach, I went with Lefty and Ron Bradley, one of his assistants, to visit a kid named Sean Alvarado in Anacostia, DC. And it was Halloween. And as we get out of the car to go see Sean, about 10 or 12 little kids run up screaming, Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat. Lefty pulls out his billfold, peels off every bill he's got and stuffs them in the bags that the kids are carrying, you know, Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat.

And finally, the kids run off. Lefty turns to Ron and says, damn, I hope I didn't have too many big bills on there. And that's why I've always said Lefty's the guy who would give you his last dollar and not even think about it. It's just incredible.

John Feinstein. He was an incredible guy. Forget the 786 wins and, you know, the great games he was involved in, great players he coached. I mean, he was he was just he was, as I said, as Ken said, he was unique. And unique is an overused word in sports because people forget it means one of a kind. You can't be very unique. You can't be among the most unique. You're either unique or you're not.

And Lefty was unique. And I appreciate your time. Good to talk to you, Adam. Thanks. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-19 17:48:48 / 2024-02-19 17:55:26 / 7

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