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Charles 'Lefty' Driesell resigned Wednesday as University of Maryland...

By WILL DUNHAM, UPI Sports Writer

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Charles 'Lefty' Driesell resigned Wednesday as University of Maryland basketball coach after 17 years amid sharp criticism following the cocaine-induced death of star player Len Bias.

Driesell, who established the school as a national basketball power, assumes the post of assistant athletic director with an eight-year financial package worth a total of $886,400, said university Chancellor John Slaughter.

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'I make this announcement with mixed emotions because I've loved every one of my 17 years as head coach at Maryland,' Driesell said at a news conference on the floor of Cole Field House, the site of more than 200 of his victories. 'But it is obvious that the administration wants to make a coaching change, and I do not want to coach if I am not wanted.'

Slaughter said he will name a successor to Driesell by Saturday when the basketball team begins practice for this season. Ron Bradley, an assistant coach at Maryland for five years, is mentioned as a likely interim replacement.

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Driesell, 54, known for a combative style, weathered several controversies as Maryland coach. But Bias's June 19 death and subsequent revelations of academic shortcomings by players spurred a wave of criticism over Driesell's conduct that the coach could not overcome.

'There needed to be some redirection in our overall athletic program, particularly as it related to basketball,' Slaughter said at a separate news conference. 'There needed to be a greater commitment to the development of the young men playing in the program and it is my belief at this time in order to make those changes, we would require new leadership.'

Driesell's resignation comes just three weeks after the resignation of Athletic Director Dick Dull. In addition, Slaughter said he would resign as chancellor if asked by the school's Board of Regents.

Driesell, who also coached nine years at Davidson, leaves as the second winningest active Division I basketball coach. He compiled a 524-224 overall record, including 16 seasons of 20 wins or more, and a 348-159 record and one Atlantic Coast Conference championship at Maryland.

He never had a losing record at Maryland. His only losing season came in his first year at Davidson.

'I am proud of all that the basketball program has accomplished during the last 17 years, both on and off the court,' said the coach, flanked by his wife and two daughters. 'I am very proud of our success in winning basketball games, but I am even prouder of the fine men that have been a part of the Maryland basketball program.'

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Driesell's new contract includes $85,800 in salary for the next eight years plus any annual increases due university employees. Additionally, he will receive $50,000 a year for the next four years to compensate for lost television revenue and the university will continue to sanction the coach's annual summer basketball camp.

Slaughter added if Driesell accepts another coaching job at another school or resigns his new post, the university assumes 'no further financial responsibility' to continue payment on the remainder of the contract.

Driesell admitted to a grand jury investigating Bias's death that he had directed an assistant coach to remove evidence of drug use from the dormitory suite where Bias collapsed after snorting cocaine for three hours with friends. The grand jury did not indict Driesell for obstruction of justice, but the state prosecutor called the coach's actions 'stupid.'

School records show that since Driesell assumed his position in 1969, nearly half the players he recruited failed to earn degrees.

Driesell's best year at Maryland came in 1971-72 when the Terrapins posted a 27-5 record and captured the National Invitation Tournament. His Maryland teams played in the NCAA Tournament eight times, including six of the last seven years.

In 1983, Slaughter reprimanded Driesell for demanding that a female student abandon sexual harassment charges against player Herman Veal. The woman received a public apology from the coach, who became the target of protests by women's groups.

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One year later, Maryland players Adrian Branch and Steve Rivers were arrested and convicted for marijuana possession.

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