June 21, 2010

Patient Driesell gets his shot at The Citadel

Chuck Driesell isn't the only coach's son who grew up attending hundreds of his father's practices and games. The difference with Driesell is that his memories have star power.

Plenty of coaches' sons end up participating in basketball camps run by their fathers. But how many had Pete Maravich and Dave Cowens as camp counselors? And how many high school freshmen have scrimmaged against teams as loaded as Lefty Driesell's Maryland squads of the late 1970s and early 1980s?

"I'm a freshman in high school and I'm out there playing with Albert King, Buck Williams and Ernie Graham," said Driesell, who will begin his college head-coaching career at The Citadel this season. "Sometimes those guys were looking at me like my dad's crazy, but he just wanted me as exposed to the game as possible."

Driesell's first Division I head-coaching job arrived after he spent two decades working his way up the ladder. Driesell, 47, won more than 150 games as a head coach at the high-school and prep-school level and at Division III Marymount in Virginia. He just finished a four-season stint as a Maryland assistant under Gary Williams.

His family connections certainly helped him along the way, but Driesell never stopped paying his dues. He has spent virtually his entire lifetime around the game.

"I've got pictures of him sitting on my bench sucking his thumb because he was so small," said Lefty Driesell, 78, who retired from coaching in 2003 after a six-season run at Georgia State. "He should be an excellent coach. This is a good opportunity for him. He's been an assistant long enough."

It would be unfair to expect Driesell to match his father's success. Lefty was 786-394 in 41 seasons and was the second coach in history to lead four schools (Davidson, Maryland, James Madison and Georgia State) to the NCAA tournament. An award given annually to the nation's top defensive player is named in his honor.

Those family connections provide plenty of pressure, but they also offer quite a few advantages for The Citadel's new coach.

"When I meet somebody, they might not know me from Adam but they know my dad and what he's done," Chuck Driesell said. "It gives me an opportunity to step in and develop a relationship, especially in recruiting. Every advantage you can get is crucial."

Like father, like son
When Chuck Driesell begins his Division I head-coaching career this season at The Citadel, he will try to help his family join some of these notable father/son coaching tandems (or trios) in college basketball history.

: Eddie Sutton (888-341 record)
Sons: Scott Sutton (204-138), Sean Sutton (39-28)
Total record: 1,131-507
The buzz: Eddie Sutton was the first coach in history to lead four schools (Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State) to the NCAA tournament. He reached the Final Four with Arkansas (1978) and Oklahoma State (1995, 2004). Scott Sutton coaches Oral Roberts and led the Eagles to three consecutive NCAA berths from 2006-08. Sean Sutton coached Oklahoma State in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

: Ray Meyer (724-354)
Son: Joey Meyer (231-158)
Total record: 955-512
The buzz: Ray Meyer coached DePaul from 1942-84 and led the Blue Demons to the Final Four in 1943 and '79. Joey Meyer succeeded his father at DePaul and reached the NCAA tournament seven times in his 13-season tenure.

: Bob Knight (902-371)
Son: Pat Knight (37-42)
Total record: 939-413
The buzz: Bob Knight, the winningest coach in Division I history, won three NCAA titles (1976, '81, '87) at Indiana before moving on to Texas Tech. After retiring in February 2008, he was replaced by his son, who is entering his third full season as Texas Tech's coach.

: Gene Bartow (647-353)
Son: Murry Bartow (241-169)
Total record: 888-522
The buzz: Gene Bartow reached the NCAA championship game with Memphis State in 1973 and also coached at Valparaiso, Illinois, UCLA and UAB. He succeeded John Wooden at UCLA. Murry Bartow succeeded his father at UAB and has led East Tennessee State to an NCAA bid in each of the past two seasons.

: John Thompson Jr. (596-239)
Sons: John Thompson III (207-104), Ronny Thompson (9-22)
Total record: 812-365
The buzz: John Thompson Jr. led Georgetown to one national title (1984), two other Final Four appearances (1982, '85) and a total of 20 NCAA tournaments in his 27-year stint at Georgetown. He was succeeded by John III, who led the Hoyas to the Final Four in 2007. John III also has been coach at Princeton. Ronny coached Ball State for one season (2006-07).

: Homer Drew (617-415)
Son: Scott Drew (129-114)
Total record: 746-529
The buzz: Homer Drew led Valparaiso to the Sweet 16 in 1998 and has reached the NCAA tournament five other times. He retired after the 2001-02 season and was replaced by his son, Scott, only to return a year later after Baylor hired Scott. Homer remains the coach at Valparaiso and Scott remains at Baylor, which advanced to a regional final last season.

: Jerry Welsh (505-205)
Son: Tim Welsh (215-148)
Total record: 720-353
The buzz: Welsh won 455 games at Division III Potsdam (N.Y.) State from 1968-91 and led the school to the Division III national title in 1981. He moved to Iona in 1991 and retired for health reasons in 1995. Welsh was succeeded by his son, who led Iona to two NIT bids and one NCAA tournament appearance before moving on to Providence. He coached at Providence from 1998-2008 and reached the NCAA tournament twice. He was hired at Hofstra on March 31 but resigned May 3, three days after he was arrested and charged with drunken driving.

: Tom Davis (598-355)
Son: Keno Davis (59-38)
Total record: 657-393
The buzz: Tom Davis coached at Lafayette (1971-77), Boston College (1977-82), Stanford (1982-86), Iowa (1986-99) and Drake (2003-07). He reached regional finals in 1982 with Boston College and in '87 with Iowa. He retired from coaching in 2007 and was succeeded by his son, who led Drake to a 28-5 record in his lone season at the school. Keno Davis is entering his third season at Providence.

: Dick Bennett (490-306)
Son: Tony Bennett (84-49)
Total record: 574-355
The buzz: Dick Bennett reached the 1984 NAIA championship game while coaching at Wisconsin-Stevens Point (1976-85) and advanced to the 2000 Final Four during his tenure at Wisconsin (1995-2001). He also coached at Wisconsin-Green Bay (1985-95) and Washington State (2003-06). Tony Bennett succeeded his father at Washington State and earned two NCAA tournament bids and one NIT invitation in his three-year tenure. He is entering his second season at Virginia.

NOTE: Information from The Citadel sports information department and statsheet.com was used to put together this chart.

Driesell will need every advantage he can get in his new job. The same qualities that can make The Citadel a rewarding place to work also make it a tough place to recruit. Freshmen at The Citadel generally wake up at 5:30 a.m., run 45 minutes and go through morning military formations before starting their class day. More than one-third of the graduating seniors enter the military.

The Citadel had endured five consecutive 20-loss seasons before going a combined 36-29 the past two seasons under Ed Conroy, who parlayed that success into the coaching job at Tulane.

"It's different coaching at a military school," said Les Robinson, who coached at The Citadel from 1974-85 and served as the school's athletic director from 2000-08. "I know some people who are good coaches who might not have the temperament to be successful at a military school. Patience is your greatest virtue at a military school.

"I've had many friends who have coached at the ACC and the Southern Conference but also coached in the military. It's like a little fraternity. We know each other and what it's like. If you haven't done it, you don't have any idea."

Driesell's experience should help him with this challenge. Robinson recruited him to The Citadel, though Driesell opted instead to play for his dad at Maryland. After graduating from Maryland, Driesell spent three seasons (1985-88) as the coach at the U.S. Naval Prep School.

"I think a lot of people focus on the disadvantages [of coaching at a military school]," Driesell said. "I like to turn those disadvantages into positives. ... Even as a coach, we talk about what sets you apart. Do you play harder than the next guy? Are you a better defender? Do you shoot better? Do you have a better work ethic?

"When you come out of college, you want something that sets you apart so you stand out. That's the advantage of coming to a school like The Citadel. You're getting a great education from a school with a tremendous reputation, and you're also adding an element a lot of people are looking for and that's leadership."

Driesell will employ the same approach that helped make his father such a success.

"I think basketball should be played a certain way. ... I like to run," he said. "I like to get up and down the court. I think players like to get up and down the floor and score in transition.

"I will work very hard in making our teams run the floor extremely hard. To do that, you have to play great defense, and our teams will play great defense. You have to rebound well, and our teams will emphasize rebounding."

Driesell has wasted no time getting that message across to his new team. Senior swingman Austin Dahn said only a couple of players on the team knew much about Driesell or his family history before he arrived at The Citadel. He still managed to earn their immediate attention.

"My first impression is that he's very intense," Dahn said. "He expects a lot from his teams and expects a lot from us. He really preached about playing hard and how hard we were going to play and how hard we were going to work. He tried to relate that the harder we work, the luckier we get.

"He said we'll be the hardest-working team on the court, no matter who we play."

Driesell was an equally hard-working player, though he rarely got a chance to show it. His decision to play for his father's star-studded Maryland program meant that he seldom got off the bench. Maryland won 85 games, captured an ACC title and reached three NCAA tournaments when Driesell played for the Terps from 1981-85.

As Driesell gradually realized he wouldn't have the chance at a long playing career, he began considering the possibility of following his father into the coaching ranks.

"I wanted to stay around the game because I loved it so much," Driesell said. "I was one of those seniors where every practice and game, I'd realize, 'My gosh, I'm about done,' and it really tore me up inside."

After his stint at the U.S. Naval Prep School, he was an assistant for his dad from 1989-97 at James Madison. When Lefty took over Georgia State's program after losing his job at James Madison, Chuck went to Marymount. Though father and son didn't work together at Georgia State, Lefty credits Chuck for helping put together the offense that helped the Panthers reach the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2001.

Driesell coached Marymount from 1997-2003 and was 88-72 and guided the school to its first Division III NCAA tournament appearance. Then came one season as a Georgetown assistant, two seasons as coach at Alexandria (Va.) Bishop Ireton and the four-year run as a Maryland assistant.

"Chuck was never somebody you had to motivate," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He was motivated to do whatever he could do here as an assistant coach. When you get to be a head coach, you're shocked especially in that first job of everything you have to do. But in terms of putting the time in, he's already done that - the 12-hour days and everything it takes for every program to be successful."

Every step along the way has helped Driesell prepare for this task. And that includes the lessons he learned long before he ever realized he wanted to follow his father into coaching. All those days watching his dad's games and working out with his dad's players as a child helped lead up to this moment.

"I wanted it," Driesell said. "It wasn't like I was fighting it. I wanted it. I wanted more and more. Every chance I got, I was over at Cole Field House hanging out, practicing, playing and just hanging around. I was very blessed to have that opportunity. Not a lot of people have that."

He feels equally blessed about this latest opportunity.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.


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