An avalanche of rewards and opportunities awaits the basketball coach who lures more than his share of "good ol' boys" to his school and wins games with them. For instance, Lefty Driesell of Davidson has four times been named the Southern Conference coach of the year. His two All-Americas (Fred Hetzel and Dick Snyder) are now playing well in the NBA. The Lefty Driesell Show is carried on Charlotte, N.C. television every Sunday night during the season. His month-long Wildcat Basketball Camp grossed more than $40,000 last summer. But it was only last month that Lefty felt he had reached the eminence that allowed him to name a pizza after himself.
Adventuresome caters now can buy a "Lefty's Special" near the handsome Davidson campus at the just-opened Wildcat Den, Charles G. Driesell, Prop. A Lefty is decorated with tomato, cheese, mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni and ground beef. Since the town of Davidson forbids the sale of beer, the pie has to be washed down by a pitcher of that old Italian favorite, apple cider. The place has been nicknamed Drieselli's, and business is brisk, but the coach says, "I'd still rather win ball games than sell pizzas."
Lefty should be a happy man then, because he has the material to offer a special on the basketball court, too. Four of his sophomores averaged 17.7 points or better last season on an undefeated freshman team, and each made better than 55% of his shots from the floor. There is a junior, Wayne Huckel, who has the grades to be a Rhodes scholar and so much determination that he probably would leap into a threshing machine after a loose ball. There are two seniors who must kneel down to get under a shower nozzle. Indeed, there is so much talent around that even the student manager can toss a towel into the laundry bag from 20 feet.
The two tall seniors, admittedly, are a bit of a problem. The biggest, 6'10" Tom Youngdale from Peru, Ill., works ever so hard, but sometimes he cannot even hold onto a pass. It seems likely that one of the tough sophomores will turn him into a second-stringer. The other giant, 6'9" Rodney Knowles of Greenville, N.C., often plays the way that you would imagine somebody named Sir Rodney would play—like a lazy blue blood idly amusing himself. He is talented, averaged 12 rebounds and 18 points last season, but he must become a hustler if Davidson is to be a national contender. Before practice sessions started, Driesell ordered Knowles to report at 220 pounds or under. He did not make it, and Lefty would not let him work out. On his first day back at practice, after he had sweated off enough lard, Rodney took it easy, but he is in good shape now. He had better stay away from Lefty's Specials.
The sophomores are impressive. Mike Maloy, a 6'7" leaper from New York City, is the first Negro to play basketball at Davidson. Floridian Jan Potsma, 6'5", did not come on a full scholarship but quickly earned one. Jerry Kroll, 6'4", led his Houston high school to the Texas state championship, and Doug Cook, 6'6", sends his coach into convulsions of joy. "He's really mean, that's the best way to describe it," Lefty says. "He rebounds the way people should. You might think he's a bully, and he is."
This array of talent needs a floor leader, and it probably will be Huckel, who hit the floor so often last season he had to wear baseball sliding pads under his basketball shorts. But Huckel may not be a good enough ball handler to play at the top of the key (the "point") in Driesell's double-post offense. So that job may again be taken by junior Dave Moser of Fort Wayne, Ind., who, Lefty says, "is real clever with the ball," which is reasonably accurate.
As strong as Davidson is—and the squad includes nine who can start—Wildcat fans are not overoptimistic. They know that no matter which teams wins the league title, it also must win the brutal, three-night Southern Conference tournament (single elimination) before going on to the NCAA regionals. Davidson has stumbled in the tourney more than once. And, as usual, the other chief contender for the title is West Virginia, which now has Carey Bailey back from California. When he left to attend junior college there, the cry all over the state was, "Carey Bailey, won't you please come home?" He finally responded to the pleas—and the urging of Mountaineer alumnus Jerry West—and he joins smooth Ron Williams and sharpshooter Dave Reaser on what should be a high-scoring team.
It does not figure to score enough to catch Davidson, unless all of those sophomores come down with pizza poisoning at the same time.