ATLANTA-Legendary former Georgia State men’s basketball head coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Friday evening.
Along with Driesell, the Class of 2018 included Ray Allen, Maurice Cheeks, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Tina Thompson, Dino Radja, Charlie Scott, Ora Mae Washington, Rod Thorn, Rick Welts, and Katie Smith.
Driesell won 786 games at four schools in 40-plus years as a college head coach. He was the first coach in NCAA history to win more than 100 games at four schools: Davidson, Maryland, James Madison, and Georgia State.
In five-plus seasons at Georgia State, Driesell led the Panthers to a 103-59 record, including three regular-season conference titles and a tournament championship in 2001 where he guided a squad that finished 29-5 into the second round of the NCAA tournament after a first-round upset of Wisconsin.
The 29-win season remains a school record today and was among the many reasons why the court at the GSU Sports Arena is named in his honor.
Driesell was born on Christmas Day 1931 in Norfolk, Va. He spent 45 years as a head coach: 40 years as a Division I head basketball coach and five years as a high school coach. In 45 years of coaching, he had only two losing seasons.
He is considered by many as “The Master of Building Division I Basketball Programs.” He took Davidson, Maryland, James Madison, and Georgia State all to the NCAA tournament.
He is the only Division I coach to win 100 games at four different universities. He was named Coach of the Year in four different conferences and at the time of his retirement in 2003, only Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, and Bobby Knight had more Division I wins.
It all started in the 1960-61 season at Davidson College. In his third season and at just 31 years of age, Davidson achieved their first national ranking in school history.
From Davidson, he took over a Maryland program with only one top 10-ranked team in school history (1958). In his third season (1972) Maryland won the NIT (only 25 teams got into the NCAA) and was ranked No. 6 by Basketball Weekly News. His Maryland teams would be consistently ranked among the top 10 during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
From Maryland, he took over James Madison and went to the postseason in just his second season. For five straight years from 1990 to 1994 his teams won or tied for the regular season championship.
From James Madison, he came to Georgia State which had only three winning seasons in the first 35 years of the program. Driesell took Georgia State to the postseason twice including the NCAA berth in 2001. He averaged 20 wins per season while the head coach at Georgia State and never had a losing season.
Driesell is also credited for starting “Midnight Madness” and is in no less than 10 Hall of Fames, including being a part of the inaugural class of the Georgia State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.