The final score of the William & Mary women’s basketball game was 62-53. It was Feb. 26, 2017, and the first time in 18 years that the team clinched victory while playing on James Madison University’s home court. William & Mary Athletics Director Terry Driscoll was elated by the win, but wanted the team’s coaches to answer one question.
“What was the bus ride home like?” he asked.
He was curious about the sound of victory.
As he suspected, there was plenty of laughter, screaming and singing on the bus that night between the 180 miles that separated the team from home. Driscoll is familiar with that sound as an All-American athlete who went on to play basketball in the NBA and Italy. In a way, the sounds of victory have driven Driscoll for the past 21 years.
“I don’t like to lose,” Driscoll says. “I always question how good I can be and how good as a team can we be. How do we utilize the abilities we have for something that is worthwhile or for something that we enjoy?”
Driscoll, the longest-tenured athletics director in the history of the Colonial Athletic Association, will retire in June to spend more time with his family.
All-American athlete Driscoll, born in Winthrop, Mass., a suburb of Boston, is the oldest of four children. To say Driscoll and his neighborhood friends played a variety of sports would be understating their interests. Their childhood days were filled with ice hockey, swimming, sailing, tag football, basketball and baseball.
Driscoll played basketball in high school despite being better at ice hockey, he says. His feet grew fast, making it costly for his parents to buy custom skates.
“From the time I was 12, my age matched my shoe size,” Driscoll says, who stands at 6’7″. “When I was 13, I was a size 13. When I was 14, I was a size 14 and so on, until I was 16, when luckily my feet stopped growing.”
His high school days on the basketball court proved better than he anticipated. When he played in an all-star championship tournament in Pennsylvania, he scored 22 points during one of the games. His performance caught the attention of several colleges, including Boston College, where he attended.
While in college, he was named an All-American basketball player. His team was ranked 8th in the country his senior year, which attracted several sports agents.
Driscoll, who played center, was the fourth overall pick during the 1969 NBA draft. Instead of immediately going to the NBA, he decided to play professionally in Italy. After a year, he returned to the States to play in the NBA for a short stint.
By the time he turned 28, Driscoll returned to Italy with his wife, Susan, and their 4-month-old son to play professional basketball. Driscoll played for three years, winning one championship, and coached for two years, winning two championships. As the Driscolls’ son grew older, the couple decided to return to the U.S.
“I was curious about life outside of basketball,” Driscoll says. “If I couldn’t live without basketball, I would find a way to get back in.”
Tribe Driscoll shifted his career from a professional basketball player to becoming a business executive for Kazmaier Associates, where he spent 16 years in sports marketing, distribution, sales and planning major sporting events.
In 1996, a newspaper employment advertisement changed the course of Driscoll’s life again. The ad’s description was simple: William & Mary needed an athletics director.
Driscoll’s tenure has been filled with one accomplishment after another: 114 CAA championships, 11 top-100 rankings in the Directors’ Cup and 131 all-time league championships — more than any other university in the CAA.
But Driscoll doesn’t talk about all the accomplishments that occurred on his watch.
“I will miss the people the most,” Driscoll says. “People in this department are very committed and willing to be a part of a team. Everyone understands that, whether they are the lead person on a project or a contributor, things don’t happen without them being a part of it.”
Driscoll’s work at William & Mary is not limited to making decisions behind a desk. His influence is still melded in the minds of players who have long graduated.
“One of the things I always respected and appreciated about Mr. Driscoll was his availability to student-athletes,” Kyra Kaylor M.A. Ed. ’08 says. “His door was always open.”
Kaylor, who was named women’s basketball player of the year twice, says Driscoll went out of his way for students. Kaylor is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and Driscoll knew it. William & Mary alumnus and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin ’95, L.H.D. ’08, was attending a dinner on campus the weekend of the 2008 Commencement. Driscoll invited Kaylor to that dinner.
“I didn’t just get a chance to meet Mike Tomlin, Mr. Driscoll had arranged it so that I was sitting at Mike Tomlin’s table,” Kaylor says. “Not only did I get to meet Mike Tomlin, but I spent the evening talking with him. Knowing I had an athletic director who truly cared about me as a person and not just about what I could bring to the basketball program will always mean the world to me.”
Legacy Two major projects that have recently been completed under Driscoll’s tenure are the renovation of Zable Stadium and the completion of the Plumeri Indoor Baseball Practice Facility.
Under Driscoll’s leadership, the Committee on Competitive Excellence completed a report in 2015, a “Championship Experience for Every Student Athlete and Every Fan,” which highlights funding needs for scholarships, operating expenses and facility improvements. The report serves as the strategic plan for the future of Tribe Athletics. Additionally, Driscoll has spearheaded fundraising efforts in the For the Bold campaign, helping to bring in more than $100 million for the Athletics Department.
Jane Thompson Kaplan ’56 and Jim Kaplan ’57, Kaplan Arena’s namesakes, met Driscoll at the 1996 Hall of Fame Induction event. The couple ended up sitting next to Driscoll — marking the beginning of a special friendship.
“He is highly respected by his peers and that is probably the greatest attribute in this particular position,” says Jim, who attended the university on a full basketball scholarship. “He has represented William & Mary with dignity and class. He personifies the type of athlete we try to groom at William & Mary.”
Jane says that both Driscoll and his wife, Susan, have made a great team at William & Mary and will be hard to replace.
“Because of our high academic expectations at William & Mary, our athletes have to fit into that mold,” Jane says. “Terry understands that because he was an academic and an All-American athlete. Anyone who fills his job will have to do the same thing.”
Sue Hanna Gerdelman ’76 — chair of the For the Bold campaign — and John Gerdelman ’75, are also longtime friends of the Driscolls. John, a former student-athlete and scholarship recipient, says he knows that balancing books and sports can be a challenge. But the Gerdelmans say Driscoll is masterful at making it work.
“He really embraces the student-athlete concept, which means recognizing the importance of being a student first and an athlete second,” Sue says. “He always sends the message that students must put athletics in perspective. Terry is a person who has always led by example and set the course for people around him.”
Driscoll doesn’t dwell on his long tenure at William & Mary, or spend too much time trying to put his legacy into words.
“William & Mary Athletics was here before I got here, and it will go on long after me,” Driscoll says. “I look at this job as having the opportunity to make a contribution in this continuum that goes on. What I really care about is whether Tribe Athletics is better now than when I got here.”