Driesell wants to know what's keeping him out of the Hall of Fame

Former Maryland coach who ranks ninth all-time in wins suspects death of Bias may hurt his chances

February 19, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — — Another year has passed without former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell -- who won 786 games at four schools -- making the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Driesell, 79, says he just wants to know why.

"It doesn't bother me that I'm not in there," Driesell said in a telephone interview from his home in Virginia Beach, Va. "I'd just like to know why."

Driesell was not among the 10 North American Committee finalists announced Friday by the Springfield, Mass., shrine officially called the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

He hasn't been a finalist for eight years. He made the cut in 2003, and his name was forwarded to an honors committee. But he did not receive the minimum 18votes from the 24-member panel. He received a letter reading: "I regret to inform you that you have not been selected as a member of the Class of 2003."

Driesell, who took Maryland, Davidson, James Madison and Georgia State to the NCAA tournament, ranks ninth in Division I men's basketball victories. Most of those ahead of him on the wins list -- including Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun -- are in the Hall. A number of coaches with fewer wins are also enshrined. They include John Chaney, Lute Olson, Hank Iba, Roy Williams and Ray Meyer.

Active coaches may be considered if they have coached at least 25 years.

Maryland coach Gary Williams, who recently passed the late John Wooden for 22nd on the wins list and has 665 victories, was also not a finalist. He is in his 33rd season as a coach and 22nd at Maryland.

"It's not something I lobby for," Williams said Saturday. "There's a lot of really good former coaches who probably deserve to be in there [and] I'm still coaching. It's something that anybody connected with basketball would be really proud of."

Driesell said he can't help but wonder if circumstances surrounding the cocaine-induced death of former Terps star Len Bias in 1986 are keeping him out.

A grand jury investigated whether Driesell obstructed the investigation by trying to have Bias' room cleaned up. But Driesell was not charged, and he says: "I didn't do anything wrong with Len Bias. If somebody says it's because of Leonard, then they need to know the whole story."

Hall president John Delova said in an interview that the decision-making process is private. So is the list of the nine members on the screening committee. "The reason we don't unveil their names is we don't want to have negotiated voting. They don't even know who is coming into the room that day," Delova said. "They ought to be able to speak and think clearly."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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