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quot;Leftyquot; leads GSU to Troy Thursday

Sports Editor

Troy State will welcome a college basketball icon into Trojan Arena for Thursday night’s Trans America Athletic Conference matchup between TSU and Georgia State.

Panther head coach Charles "Lefty" Driesell is, putting it mildly, a basketball institution. It’s hard not to be considered a legend when you rank 10th all-time and third among active coaches with 721 wins under your belt.

In only his third season as the Panthers’ head coach, Driesell brings almost four decades of coaching experience to Georgia State (5-9 overall, 3-3 in TAAC play) and by no means should be considered as anything else other than one of the all-time greats.

"I don’t think people realize who is coming to this gym Thursday night," TSU head coach Don Maestri said. "He has passsed Don Haskins and there are only a few in front of him now that have won more games as a NCAA head coach. Those are some big names he is spoken right along side of."

His accolades are almost to numerous to list.

He has been to the NCAA Tournament 12 times reaching the Elite 8 four times and he has guided his teams to seven NIT births winning that championship in 1972 at Maryland. He has won 17 conference championships including eight Southern Conference titles, three ACC titles and six Colonial Athletic crowns. He has been honored as coach of the year eight times and that’s just a start on all his coaching honors.

Along with the numerous wins and championships and tournament berths, he has also put his mark on numerous players and coaches.

The 39-year veteran has had 33 players drafted to the NBA, eight of which were first-round draft picks. Some of the bigger names are New York Knick and NBA Player Association President Buck Williams, No. 1 NBA draftee Fred Hetzel, Mavericks General Manager Brad Davis and former NBA coach and No. 1 NBA choice John Lucas.

The list goes on and on when you start studying Driesell’s history and with an all-time record of 721-369, a winning percentage of over 66 percent, you have to feel that it is only a matter of time before Georgia State starts to turn their losing past into a winning future.

Already Driesell has a 38-34 record as Georgia State’s head coach and in his first year led the Panthers to only their fourth-ever winning season going 16-12 in 1998 and 17-13 in 1999.

Not much will escape the eye of the 68-year-old Duke University alum Thursday. Maestri and his team will have to be ready as the recruiting prowess of the veteran coach has already shown huge rewards for Georgia State.

He has picked up transfers from the likes of Georgetown, Alabama and Georgia Tech to help bolster his crew of Panthers. Maestri has commented that he truly believes, even though they have taken their lumps in the early going, that this Georgia State team is has the most individual talent in the TAAC this year. That could spell trouble when "Lefty" starts motivating them to pull the upset over the Trojans who lead the league with an undefeated 6-0 record.

"This guy is some kind of motivator," Maestri said. "If anyone can get a team fired up for Thursday night’s game he can. The one thing you don’t want to face is a team as talented at Georgia State when their fired up to pull the upset. We’ll have to play as good a game as we did against Samford and maybe even better if we hope to beat them."