By In Stuff

Winning an Oldsmobile

This was fun — spent some time with Lefty Driesell. What a storyteller. And what a career. Somehow, Lefty has not been elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. This might be the year.

There were dozens of stories Lefty told that couldn’t fit into the piece — one was how Red Auerbach was almost his coach when he played ball at Duke. Gerry Gerard was the coach at Duke when Lefty got there, but he was very sick.

“They knew Gerry Gerard had cancer,” Lefty said. “I’m a freshman at Duke, and I knew he had cancer. I didn’t know he was going to die, but they knew he was going to die. So they hired Red Auerbach. … In fact, I think he’s the one who taught Dick Groat how to shoot jump shots. We never shot them. In high school, I was the leading scorer in the state, but I never shot a jump shot. I shot one-hand push shots or two-hand sets, but when I got to Duke, Dick Groat taught me the jump shot. And I think Red taught it to him.

“Anyway, when Gerry died, they told Red, ‘Listen, you go ahead and start teaching phys ed classes. Back then you had to teach and coach. I taught when I was at Davidson.

“Well, Red said, ‘All right, I’m not teaching class. I’m leaving.’ And he left.”

Lefty Driesell and the Hall of Fame

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8 Responses to Winning an Oldsmobile

  1. shagster says:

    Back? Does this mean regular trips to the Varsity to get your oil changed?

  2. invitro says:

    Lefty paled in comparison to the great ACC coaches, but I enjoyed watching him back when I watched all the big ACC games. But this quote from him: ‘You know, I’ve been working 49 years. Most people retire after 25.’ makes me think he was in show biz too long, and got waaaay out of touch with the real world.

    • DB says:

      I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant “in this business,” i.e. in the Division 1 college basketball coach world. I can see most of them barely making 25 (if at all). Whenever I see a quote now that does not make sense or makes someone seem off, I tend to think some context was left out or the speaker thought they made the context clear when they did not. I doubt he though that most people retire after 25 years (I wish I could).

  3. Rob Smith says:

    Driesell’s story about leaving GA State has changed a little bit over time. Initially he was pretty grumpy about how the players had stopped listening and he’d had it with them. Now he says he was tired. Well he was pretty old, but he definitely had a falling out with his team & that was a factor.

    The funny thing too is that, because he was old, one of his recruiting pitches at GA State, recruiting that he did whenever a microphone was put in his face…. was to make it crystal clear that he wasn’t some old fogey walk the ball up type of coach. “We run” he would say, making sure the local kids knew they played a current and fun style.

  4. MikeN says:

    Going from that article, I took at look at Joe’s old SI articles. There is one about predicting baseball milestones, and almost all are right. Ichiro 3000, Thome 600, ARod not record HR and Jeter no 4000 are good ones, Moyer no 300.
    Wrong are Damon 3000, Andruw 500, Arod record RBI, and Sabathia 300(anyone want to say I’m wrong on this?)

  5. Cuban X Senators says:

    Thanks for this, Joe.

    As a kid who grew up down the street from the Maryland campus with North Carolina roots* when Dean & Lefty were the veterans and Coach K, Jim Valvano & Bobby Cremins were just unproven, energetic former point guards, it’s nice to spend a little time remembering Lefty again.

    If I had to name 100 things I would not want to face, Lefty-Driesell-determined-to-sell-me-an-encyclopedia might be one.

    *seemed every kid around DC had NC roots

  6. Janice says:

    Joe: I grew up in Silver Spring and went to high school with Lefty’s kids and was an avid Maryland basketball and Lefty fan. But I never got over his role in the Herman Veal matter. In some ways, that seemed to lead right into some the issues that resulted in Len Bias’ death. Do you have any thoughts about that?

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