Sunday, March 23, 2008


In the period of basketball history of which I write, Davidson represented the big time in the Southern Conference because the wily, fast talking Lefty Driesell had transformed the small Protestant college into a national power. I never took the court against them without thinking the the eye of sports loving America had turned its curious gaze on me. When Mel delivered his pregame speech as the crowd began to hum in the field house, he tried to instill fear in us, implying always that he doubted whether we possessed either the talent or the will to be on the same court with the Wildcats. He could give us a thousand reasons why we could not beat Davidson and never came up with a single one that suggested we could.

Pat Conroy on The Citadel's first matchup against Davidson during his senior year.

I wanted to beat Davidson so badly I could taste it, vinegary and sharp in the back of my throat. They had ruled the Southern Conference and been ranked in the top ten teams in the country since my freshman year.

I dribbled past Davidson caoch, Lefty Driesell, I hear him . . .

"Hey, Pat. Why did Mel bury you alive the last couple of years? Mel even told me you couldn't score for shit. I'd've played you up here, boy. Guarantee that.

I put the next layup in and as I rose to shoot that basketball off the board I rose up as the happiest boy in North Carolina because the great Lefty Driesell had proven to me that he actually knew my name. . . I basked in the glory of it.

Pat Conroy on his second matchup with the Wildcats.

Much will be written about Davidson this week. The fact that their enrollment is only 1678. The fact that out of the 339 schools that play division I basketball their enrollment places them 335th. The fact that they now own the nation's longest winning streak at 24 consecutive games. No one will probably note that during Conroy's senior season the Wildcats beat the Citadel both times, the second time by a final score of 97-85. Most articles will probably note that Lefty Driesell turned Davidson into a national power during the late 1960's. In 1968 and 1969, Davidson reached the regional final -- losing to North Carolina both times. In 1969 the Wildcats finished the season ranked #3 in the country according to the UPI their record during what would be Driesell's final season was 27-3

Driesell left the next season to take over Maryland's program in the ACC. Driesell was 176-65 as the coach at Davidson. The program has had solid season since Driesell left, but nothing compared to what has happened this year. They are this season's cinderella -- America's team.

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