Cole swan song on tap for Driesell?

Ex-Terps coach may return before field house closes

Maryland notebook

January 14, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- There are more details to be tended to than there will be seats in the new home that Maryland plans to open before the 2002-03 season. While the focus will be on a complex anchored by a 17,100-seat arena, there is also the matter of how to bid farewell to Cole Field House in style.

Is there any chance that the 2001-02 season, which is expected to be the Terps' final campaign at Cole, could tip off with a visit from Lefty Driesell?

"Lefty would come up and play tomorrow if he had the chance," Greg Manning said.

Manning, one of the most popular players in Terps history, left his job as a Maryland fund-raiser and radio analyst last fall to become the athletic director at Georgia State. Located across the interstate from Georgia Tech, the school sought to elevate its profile in Atlanta and environs when it hired Driesell in 1997.

Driesell coached Maryland for 17 never-dull seasons, but was the man in charge when the university suffered through one of the most painful college sports scandals ever, the cocaine-induced death of Len Bias and the questions of academic accountability that ensued.

While some might protest Driesell's return, there are many Lefty loyalists would love to see a visit from the coach who filled Cole and made the Terps a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. When Maryland paid tribute to Manning last October, Driesell was there, along with president Dan Mote and athletic director Debbie Yow.

"We have not spoken to anyone about it," said Manning, who will cheer the Terps on tomorrow night at Georgia Tech. "Nobody has approached me. That kind of decision would rest with Gary [Williams] and Debbie [Yow]. I think it would be a good game for Maryland, and a great game for us."

Williams is open to the idea.

"That's something that could be considered, not next year, but possibly the last year we're in there [Cole]," said Williams, who said that the circumstances behind Driesell's departure shouldn't stop him from coming back for a game.

"If anybody thinks about that stuff, then they're wrong," Williams said. "Time goes on. I think everyone has had a better chance to look at the situation when Lefty was here and realize that nationally, at that time, there was a problem on most college campuses."

The Class of 1996

At times this season, Williams and some of his players have lamented the lack of a senior leader or two who could keep the Terps focused. Given that Maryland does not have a single senior on scholarship, what happened to the recruiting class of 1996?

The Terps were able to parlay the feel-good publicity of Joe Smith and their resurgence in the ACC into a fine recruiting class of Obinna Ekezie, Laron Profit and Terrell Stokes in 1995, but another three-man class the following year did not pan out as planned.

Guard Kelly Hite was the only one of the three who played for Maryland in the 1996-97 season, but he was a bit player who transferred the following fall to Stetson, in his home state of Florida.

Mike Mardesich and LaRon Cephas also signed in '96. Williams wanted Mardesich to play as a true freshman, but the 7-footer and his family asked for another year to develop and he redshirted in 1996-97. Cephas didn't get his qualifying score until the fall of '96, and enrolled and joined the team after the first semester. Knee surgery in '98 slowed his progress, and he has never been a part of Williams' rotation.

Maryland has gotten 389 points out of that recruiting class, 342 of them from Mardesich.

Et cetera

The Terps (11-4, 0-2) have beaten Georgia Tech seven straight times. Freshman guard Drew Nicholas played a season-low eight minutes in Sunday's loss to Duke. Terence Morris got his 1,000th career point against the Blue Devils, and his next milestone will be 500 rebounds. He needs 17.

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