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Lefty Driesell On What Happened The Night Len Bias Died

It’s probably time to let this rest, at least for the 90-year-old former Maryland coach

Maryland v North Carolina
 GREENSBORO, NC - CIRCA 1981: Head coach Lefty Driesell of the Maryland Terrapins looks on against the North Carolina Tar Heels during an NCAA College basketball game circa 1981 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Driesell was the head coach of Maryland from 1969-86.
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Lefty Driesell left Maryland in the wake of Len Bias’s 1986 death and has never had much to say about it, perhaps understandably.

On the one hand, he has little to gain from talking about it and on the other, despite his courtside bluster and posturing as a bit of a country buffoon, he’s a decent man at heart, someone who once charged into a burning building to save 10 helpless children in the middle of the night.

He couldn’t save Bias though and it’s clear from this article that the loss of his brightest star at Maryland still hurts. When asked about his actions after Bias died (he was accused of asking his assistant Oliver Purnell to cover up the crime scene and evidence of drug use), he told the this:

“Hey, hold it, hold it. Say I did? So the freak what? He was in the hospital, they were going to find out if he was on drugs. Right? I mean, I never told him to clean out. I don’t think. I don’t know, maybe I did. But I wasn’t trying to hide that he was on drugs. Hey, everybody knew he was—the doctors were going to find out whether he was on drugs. I never told Oliver that, I don’t think. I think I told him to go over there and tell them to come to my house. Ask him.

“Well, see, you’re trying to find out that I did something wrong. If I did do something wrong...See, that’s what I don’t like about talking about this! To you or anybody else! I never—I loved Leonard Bias! If I thought he was on drugs, I’d have kicked his ass off the team. And—how the hell do I remember something 35 years ago? Even if I did, I wasn’t telling him to try to hide what killed Leonard.”

Bias’s death was traumatic around the entire ACC but as Driesell points out, it’s been 35 years since he died and he’ll be 90 on Christmas Day. There’s just not much value in asking someone to relive a trauma at his age. It was an awful thing for everyone, not least of all for Driesell, and we hope he is at peace with it in his final years.