Before Stephen Curry and Bob McKillop at Davidson, before the 43-game win streak and the 16.8 seconds, there was Lefty Driesell.
Driesell is the man who made basketball important at Davidson, Wildcats coach McKillop freely admits. And today, the man who built on Lefty's legacy at Davidson will face the left-hander's son, The Citadel coach Chuck Driesell.
It's enough to make a guy feel old.
"When you've been around as long as I have," said the 60-year-old McKillop, "these kinds of things tend to happen."
Chuck Driesell was just 5 years old when his dad, now retired and living in Virginia Beach, Va., coached the last of his nine seasons at Davidson, in 1968-69.
By then, Lefty had turned a tiny school near Charlotte into a national powerhouse, complete with top 10 rankings, five Southern Conference titles, three appearances in the NCAA tournament and two trips to the Elite Eight.
All of this at a school that had no appreciable basketball tradition -- at least, until Lefty upset Wake Forest of the mighty ACC in his very first game.
"What Lefty did at Davidson is one of the greatest stories in college basketball," McKillop said Friday.
"I know that as a player who played against his team, and I know it now that his torch of success has been passed on. I witnessed it, I've talked to alums and players who were a part of it, and it's one of the great stories of college basketball."
In the 40 years since Lefty left Davidson to make Maryland "the UCLA of the East," the Wildcats have had good seasons and bad. But it's easy to draw a direct line from Lefty and players such as Mike Maloy (still the only Davidson player to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated) and Terry Holland (who went on to coach Davidson and Virginia) straight through to Curry and McKillop, who shaped their own golden era. McKillop, in fact, played against Lefty's final Davidson team when he was a freshman at East Carolina.
It was Curry, of course, who led McKillop's Davidson teams to 43 straight SoCon victories from 2007-09, and to within 16.8 seconds of a win over Kansas and a berth in the Final Four in 2008. The top-seeded Jayhawks won, 59-57, despite 25 points from Curry, and went on to win the national championship.
"We've never lost sight of what Lefty accomplished here, and I've always tried to embrace the player of that time, the fans and alumni of that time," McKillop said. "And it's remarkable that those players and alums have been so gracious and generous to me. Lefty created an army here, and we've tried to be caretakers of it."
Chuck Driesell has some childhood memories of Davidson, but had a more recent encounter with McKillop's Wildcats when he was an assistant at Maryland. The Terps faced Curry, then a sophomore, and Davidson in the 2007 NCAA tournament and escaped with an 82-70 win, despite 30 points from Curry.
"Bob is a tremendous coach," Chuck Driesell said. "When you've been in the business as long as he has, you are doing a lot of things right. His guys play hard and smart, and they play together."
McKillop is now in year two of the post-Curry era, and his 3-4 Wildcats have only one senior -- his son, point guard Brendan McKillop. But sophomores J.P. Kuhlman and Jake Cohen and freshmen Tom Droney, Clint Mann and De'Mon Brooks have plenty of promise.
"Right now, we don't have the experience we'd like to have in this conference," said McKillop, whose team lost, 82-73, at College of Charleston on Thursday. "It's such a veteran league. I don't think I've ever seen the conference with so many junior and senior starters. For us, it's a process of learning as we get better, and we've taken some great strides forward these first three weeks."
Who: Davidson (3-4, 0-1) at The Citadel (2-4, 1-0)
When: 3:05 p.m.
Where: McAlister Field House