Allegany Communications Sports

There is at least one thing the University of Maryland and West Virginia University have in common and agree upon — everybody loves Billy Hahn.

That is something everyone inside and outside the basketball world agrees upon. Billy Hahn just had that little something extra.

He died last Friday at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown at age 69, and for anybody who was ever around him, even for short periods of time, this one is one that has stayed, and is likely to stay for quite some time. Billy Hahn just had that reach, and that hold, on everybody he met.

Billy played for the Terps from 1971 to 1975 having been brought to College Park from Indiana by his college coach, Lefty Driesell, who spoke with Hahn by phone shortly before his death.

“Coaches stop coaching but they never stop loving their players,” tweeted Joe Lombardi, the head coach at Indiana University Pennsylvania, “I was in the hospital room when 91-year-old Coach Lefty Driesell called former player Billy Hahn and told him, ‘It’s okay to go to the Lord and I love you.’

“I hope all coaches can be this guy.”

“Dawg,” as Billy called everyone and everyone called him (which is why he never forgot a name), began his coaching career at graduation. He was a basketball lifer who believed in “the basketball gods” and was an assistant under Gary Williams at Maryland from 1989 to 2001, as well as for Bob Huggins at West Virginia from 2007 to 2017. He was a head coach at Ohio and LaSalle universities.

When Hahn was wrongfully railroaded at LaSalle, as his own coach had been at Maryland, the only two head coaches who wanted to hire him were Williams at Maryland and Huggins at WVU.

Williams was not permitted to bring back Hahn, but Huggins, who remembered Hahn as his recruiting escort when the Terps were recruiting him, did not hesitate to bring him on, and a fast and strong friendship developed as they led the Mountaineers to the Final Four.

Billy was quite a guy; always full of life, enthusiasm and the most positive outlook you can imagine.

He began to make what would be frequent visits to Cumberland through the years while in college as he became good friends with the Boggs family.

He was at Allegany College of Maryland quite a bit, naturally, particularly when it pertained to a Mr. Steve Francis. He also developed a strong bond with the late Harold Appel, as it was not uncommon to see Billy at Harold’s bar, Appel’s Gateway, as he was often passing through, whether he was coaching at Maryland or WVU, or just stopping in to catch up with Harold or the many friends he made in Cumberland.

It didn’t take much doing to become friends with Billy Hahn. If you saw him somewhere, he usually was the one who started the conversation, and if you approached him first he welcomed it with open arms.

A lot of folks here were able to see many of the magical qualities of Billy a few years ago when he volunteered to speak at the Dapper Dan Awards Banquet. It was heartfelt, emotional, inspirational and hilarious all at once. In short, just like being in a room with Billy Hahn. He never met a stranger.

During his coaching career, Hahn coached and recruited 19 NBA players. While at Maryland, he helped the Terps reach eight straight NCAA Tournaments including the 2001 Final Four. The following year, when Maryland won the national championship during Billy’s first season at LaSalle, Hahn was presented a ring for his role in helping to assemble and coach that group of players.

The Terps finished fourth or higher in the ACC for eight straight seasons and set then-school records for regular-season wins and ACC victories in a season in 1999.

At West Virginia, he helped the Mountaineers win the 2010 Big East Championship and reach the NCAA Tournament nine times including the 2010 Final Four.

As a freshman, he was a member of the Terps’ 1971-72 National Invitation Tournament championship team and was a key reserve on the team that lost in what is considered to be the greatest game in college basketball history (Maryland’s 103-100 overtime setback against NC State in 1974).

He captained the team during his senior year in 1975. Hahn is one of only two players in Maryland basketball history to play and coach in the NCAA tournament.

Billy Hahn could fill a room and warm it faster than most any person you can think of. He loved everybody he met, particularly his players, and he enjoyed his life with all of his heart and encouraged and succeeded in allowing folks to love and enjoy their lives – always, when in the presence of Billy Hahn.

Edward Lee, of the Baltimore Sun wrote, “After a funeral for his brother in 2021, Mr. Hahn requested no services. Instead, the former (Maryland) assistant coach had a request. ‘This Saturday at 7 p.m., he’d like to have all his friends and family raise a glass wherever they are to celebrate a full life,’ his son said.”

When Billy Hahn played for the Maryland Terrapins, the Maryland fans used to sing the “Amen Chorus” during games at Cole Field House.

If you have to even consider Billy’s having lived a full life, you can hear that Amen Chorus in your mind and, in the case of Billy Hahn, in your heart.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT