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The Life


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I remember a 4-3 halftime score. I remember a bald man telling his team not to shoot. I remember this bald man's name was Lefty Driesell. I remember that his team's opponent was South Carolina, and that South Carolina was No. 2 in the country and that it had a player in its program named Mike Dunleavy or something.

I remember the bald man's team was a doormat, and I remember there wasn't a shot clock. I remember his team dribbling and stalling and stalling and dribbling. I remember thinking, "First one to 30 will win." I remember there being only a couple of seconds left, with South Carolina leading 30-29. I remember one of the bald man's players taking a final jump shot, and I remember the ball going in. I remember the bald man being carried off the court and predicting, "We will be the UCLA of the East." I remember this being my first look at Maryland basketball. I was 10.

It has been 30 years now, and this weekend, I see that the bald man's words have finally come true. But I rub my head and I rub my head and just can not believe it. Because I know too much, remember too much.

I remember Maryland never ever being able to stop David Thompson. Or Monte Towe. Or Phil Ford. Or Somebody Jordan.

I remember Maryland could've saved the world from Digger Phelps. I remember Maryland opening the 1973-74 season in Pauley Pavilion, and being down only a point to UCLA and holding the ball for one last shot to end UCLA's 70-something-game win streak. But I remember John Lucas dribbling off his foot or off David Meyers' foot or off John Wooden's foot, and never even taking a shot. And Digger's Notre Dame team got to end UCLA's streak; not the Terps.

I remember they still peaked at the right time that year. Whoever won the ACC Tournament would represent the league in the NCAAs (that's right -- only one team per conference in those days), and Maryland was on fire in March. But I remember Lefty's bloated ego getting in the way.

I remember him blowing out North Carolina in the semifinals, but refusing to take his starters out. Just so he could rub it in on Dean Smith.

I remember it all backfiring. I remember Lefty's team running out of gas the next day against North Carolina State. It may have been the greatest ACC game ever played, and the Terps almost put the game away early. But soon their double-digit lead was gone, and the score was tied in the final seconds. And I remember Maryland having the ball, and their guard Mo Howard being wide open, and I remember that he wouldn't shoot, just wouldn't shoot. They eventually lost in overtime, 103-100, and weren't allowed to go to the NCAAs. Today, they would've been a No. 1 seed, but instead they were a zero seed. Specatators.

I remember thinking, okay, they're cursed. I remember, the next year, a young man named Moses Malone saying he'd come to Maryland. And I remember him never showing up for one class.

I remember John Lucas and Brad Davis taking them to a regional final that year, against Louisville, and I remember them choking and losing to Junior Bridgeman and Wesley Cox.

I remember one of their young studs, Chris Patton, dying of an enlarged heart.

I remember Albert King coming to Maryland, but never winning a thing.

I remember Buck Williams poised to tip in the winning shot of the 1980 ACC Tournament final and being capsized by Duke's Kenny Dennard. The referees ignored it.

I remember Adrian Dantley choosing Notre Dame over Maryland, and Ralph Sampson choosing Virginia over Maryland, and Danny Ferry choosing Duke over Maryland, and J.R. Reid choosing North Carolina over Maryland and Alonzo Mourning choosing Georgetown over Maryland.

I remember Len Bias dead due to cocaine.

I remember Lefty being run out of town for letting it happen.

I remember his successor, Bob Wade, getting the program put on probation and being run out of town, too.

I remember Gary Williams, the new coach, being picked up on a DUI. I remember losing to Coppin State at home. I remember Donyell Marshall and Lawrence Moten apparently wanting to come to Maryland, but not qualifying.

I remember lads named Joe Smith and Steve Francis re-igniting everything. But I remember bitter-Sweet 16 losses to UConn and St. Johns. I remember the chip on Williams' shoulder. I remember him dating a woman the same age as his daughter, and I remember him getting ripped for it and I remember thinking, "They're only ripping him because he can't win a big game."

I remember Nate James choosing Duke over Maryland and Marvin O'Connor (yes, that Marvin O'Connor) choosing St. Joe's over Maryland. I remember thinking, "Why do these men tease Maryland so badly?" I remember this fall a young high school All-America named Jawad Williams saying Maryland was his leader and that he was likely to go there. And then I remember Jawad Williams signing with North Carolina.

I remember this year's Duke game -- the worst loss in Maryland history. I remember the Terps blowing a 10 point lead with 54 seconds left and I remember a caustic placard the next game at Virginia that said, "Gone in 54 Seconds." I remember the ridiculous ensuing losses at Georgia Tech and at home to Florida State. I remember thinking, "Maryland: Low self-esteem school." I remember thinking, "Thirty years of this, and this is the low point." I remember Williams being told, "Good luck in the NIT" as he left his own home court in College Park.

But I remember the Wake Forest, Oklahoma, Duke and Virginia wins that turned it around. I remember thinking that the first Duke game may have been the BEST loss in Maryland history. I remember thinking sometimes a loss can teach you how to win.

And then I saw how Maryland beat Stanford on Saturday, and I saw Gary Williams shaking like a leaf as he cut down the nets, and I found myself thinking about South Carolina 30 years ago and how it has all come full circle.

South Carolina had a Mike Dunleavy Sr.

Maryland's opponent Saturday has a Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Tom Friend is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a lifelong Maryland fan. E-mail him at tom.friend@espnmag.com.



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