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Turgeon on Lefty

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Sports,Campus Confidential,Kevin Dunleavy

When Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was at Jacksonville State, he had little fondness for the coach of the best team in the Atlantic Sun Conference. In those days, Lefty Driesell guided Georgia State, leading the Panthers to the NCAA tournament in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

While Turgeon was in his mid-30s, an up-and-comer in his first head coaching job at a struggling program, Driesell was 33 years older and thriving in the final stop of his coaching career.

“I always admired Lefty,” Turgeon said. “He was a real competitor. Didn’t really like him when I coached against him.”

But Turgeon got to know Driesell better when he moved on to Wichita State as they were no longer coaching rivals.

“I see him on the road recruiting. He puts his arm around me and says, ‘Son, you can recruit at Jacksonville State, you can recruit anywhere. You’ll win big,’” Turgeon said. “I’ll never forget that.”

On Saturday, Turgeon and Driesell will be reunited as Maryland will honor Driesell during the Clemson game. Driesell coached the Terrapins from 1969-86, transforming a lowly program into a national power.

“I told our kids yesterday around the circle, ‘We’re gonna honor a guy this weekend. This building wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for what he did,’” Turgeon said. “‘He came here when Maryland basketball wasn’t highly thought of. But he thought it was great, so he made it a great place. Therefore I leave Texas A&M to come here because of what he did and what Gary [Williams] did.’ I just think he deserves to be honored.”

Kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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