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Eighteen years later, Lefty and JT meet again

November 14, 1997 GMT

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) _ The last time Lefty Driesell and John Thompson faced each other in a regular season game, the Georgetown coach launched into a profane tirade that culminated with a few choice words directed right at Driesell.

That was 18 years ago. Thompson later apologized _ ``John Thompson was wrong at that time,″ he said _ but has refused to schedule Driesell’s teams ever since.

Until this year.

When Driesell was hired as coach of Georgia State, not exactly a college basketball power, Thompson had one of his assistants get on the phone and invite the Panthers to open the Driesell era at Georgetown on Saturday.


``I had a lot of angry fusses with Lefty,″ Thompson said. ``And all kinds of altercations. And people run around and say, `John hates Lefty.′ I don’t hate Lefty. The competitive anger is totally different.″

Driesell and Thompson met eight times from 1972-1980 when Driesell was at Maryland. The Terrapins won the first five before Thompson turned Georgetown’s program around; the Hoyas then won the next three _ including the 1979 game at the D.C. Armory when Thompson’s temper got the best of him.

``That’s past history,″ said Driesell, whose team will play host to Georgetown next season at the Georgia Dome. ``I appreciate him playing us. Georgia, Georgia Tech, they won’t play us home-and-home. John’s one of the few major schools that’ll come in here and play us.″

Driesell left Maryland in 1986 during the controversy that followed the death of Len Bias. He then spent nine successful years at James Madison, but was fired last spring, one day after surprising school officials by announcing that the 1997-98 season would be his last at the Virginia school.

``It was a difference in philosophical beliefs there,″ said Driesell, who has a 683-335 record in 35 seasons and is the 10th-winningest coach in NCAA Division I history. ``This has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I love it here. This can be a big-time program.″

If it becomes one, it would be an amazing accomplishment. Georgia State, 10-17 last year, is a downtown Atlanta commuter school which has won less than 29 percent of its games since starting basketball 34 years ago.

Thompson, for one, is rooting for Driesell to succeed.

``He’s a friend of mine,″ Thompson said. ``I have a great deal of respect for him, and respect for the fact that he set the trend. A lot of the things that a lot of us did who came into the business at that time, we learned from Lefty. A lot of guys contribute to your bank of knowledge. Lefty was one of them.″