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Lefty

by Lute Olson (Member of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame)

Since his retirement a few years ago, there have been some wonderful features and accounts of the coaching career of Charles "Lefty" Driesell. Some have focused on his 786 wins, taking four different schools to the NCAA tournament or his invention of "midnight madness."

Each is a part of what Lefty Driesell was as a coach, but there is one thing that comes to mind when summing up the coach and the man. He is genuine.

In any walk of life we encounter individuals who appear to be one thing on the surface, but in truth they wear more than one hat. Such can never be said for coach Driesell. That sense of humor and friendly demeanor, which were seen on television for years, are still evident when that green light goes out.

There is an old adage that suggests that you can often judge the quality of a person by how many friend he or she has. Well you would be hard pressed to find someone who has come in contact with coach Driesell that doesn't truly like the man.

Lefty's friendly, outgoing and personable makeup says more about the man than any of his 786 victories. There have been many occasions when I have been at a function with coach Driesell, when people have come up to say hello. In every case, he gave those people his full attention.

I have heard people say that Lefty Driesell had a lot of compassion for the game. I do not disagree, but I would add that he also has a lot of compassion for people.

We can all envision his intensity and passion on the sidelines, but when the game was over he brought those same traits to those he knew and those who he would meet for the first time that day.

I remember meeting Lefty, early in my coaching career at Iowa. At that time I was very new to the division I coaching ranks, having spent many years in the junior college ranks in California. But Lefty treated me like a long lost friend.

For all that he had accomplished to that point in his career, he never acted like a "wheel." He was so very down to earth. And more than 25 years later he is still as humble and genuine as ever.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line I believe a lot of people lost sight of just how good of a coach he was. I have always thought he never got the credit he deserved.

Coach Driesell was an excellent recruiter, but he was also an excellent coach. All too often coaches get tagged with a label of being a great recruiter, but not a great coach.

He won 100 games or more at four different schools. No one else has ever produced such a feat. He also took each of those schools to the NCAA tournament, on the way to nearly 800 career wins.

Now you do not accomplish such things if you are just a recruiter.

In any walk of life if you have a weakness, your competition will eventually exploit it. And you certainly do not last 41 years in this profession if you are one dimensional.

He took over four losing programs and left each, following a successful tenure. At every stop he helped lead a program to new heights.

I hope that Lefty has found time to relax and spend with family, but if ever decides to place his resume on someone's desk it would be difficult to consider anyone else.

He produced 22 twenty-win seasons, 21 postseason bids, nine Top 10 finishes, 11 Top 20 finishes, and coached 33 players drafted into the NBA.

His teams advanced to the Final 32 12 times, the Sweet Sixteen six times and Elite Eight four times.

His mentorship of coaching has developed assistant coaches who have gone on to win over 2,300 games, more than any other head coach in NCAA history.

That's an impressive resume. But above all the numbers, just below the name Charles "Lefty" Driesell there should be one word to begin that resume -- "Genuine."

I was very happy to see CollegeInsider.com establish the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year Award. I hope that each player that receives this award, in the coming years, will understand the impact Lefty made on the game of basketball.

 
more from Lute Olson
It's all About Preparation
Defense: Effort, Passion and Commitment
We Knew Him as Coach

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