In Chuck Driesell’s first season as The Citadel’s basketball coach, the Bulldogs put together a nice little win streak, knocking off Southern Conference foes Samford, Appalachian State, Western Carolina and Davidson.
“I should have gone to the AD right then asked for a lifetime contract,” Driesell says now with a laugh, recalling that 2010-11 season.
Alas, that four-game streak might have been the high point of Driesell’s five-year tenure with the Bulldogs, which ended in March 2015 with a record of 42-113. Little more than a year later, the 53-year-old Driesell has found a home in high school coaching and says he has no regrets about his time at The Citadel.
“I don’t regret coming to The Citadel at all,” says Driesell, who still owns a house in Mount Pleasant and is conducting a summer camp at Porter-Gaud this week. “I learned a lot about myself, that I work hard and am a good person and that I care about the players, regardless of how well they can play. I really thought that with a couple of more years, we might have turned the corner.”
Driesell’s final season at The Citadel was his best, with an 11-19 overall record and 6-12 mark in SoCon play in 2014-15. But that was not enough to convince Citadel athletic director Jim Senter to renew his contract, and Senter hired former VMI coach Duggar Baucom to replace Driesell.
“As I look back at a place like The Citadel, the games are similar to the coaching careers there — there’s not a lot of room for error,” Driesell said. “Every game we went into, there wasn’t much room for error. Game in and game out, guys had to be on and things had to fall your way. And if you are going to live with that no margin for error, you are just going to need more time.
“It all goes back to recruiting, and some kids we lost, some we got, some turned out to be better than others. That happens everywhere, but there’s not as much room for error there. I feel like I just needed a couple of breaks, but all coaches do.”
After leaving The Citadel, Driesell became an assistant coach at San Jose State, where Dave Wojcik is the head coach. Wojcik is the brother of former College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik, a longtime friend of Driesell’s.
About a month into that gig, however, Driesell was offered the job as head coach at The Maret School, a private school in Washington, D.C. It was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down, a chance to return to the East Coast to be near his kids (two in Charleston, one heading to college at Maryland this fall) and his parents. Famed coach Lefty Driesell, Chuck’s dad, lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and is 85.
“More than anything, it was location,” Driesell said. “We went out to San Jose and I really think Dave is going to get it done there, and I was excited about helping him get it done. It’s a lot like The Citadel, a tough challenge. But it’s a long way from home, from the kids and my parents, and when this opportunity came along, it just made more sense for us at this time.”
The Maret School is a private school with about 650 students in grades K-12. Driesell’s varsity team went 18-12 last year and has a Division I prospect in 6-10 center Luka Garza.
“They say who you work with has a lot to do with how much you enjoy your job, and I love my job,” Driesell said. “There are first-class people there and its fun to be around them. I’m very fortunate to have landed in a place where I feel that.”
Driesell, who will conduct another camp Aug. 1-6 at Park West in Mount Pleasant, has lost nothing of the sunny optimism that helped him weather those tough years at The Citadel.
“I really thought when I came here that I would build a program and get The Citadel to the NCAA Tournament for the first time,” he said. “It didn’t happen, but that doesn’t discourage me from trying to set goals like that in the future.”