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Reflections on Coach Meyer

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thoughts, stories and reflections on the life and impact of Coach Don Meyer whose legacy will live on forever at Lipscomb.

Philip Hutcheson, Bison player, Lipscomb University Director of Athletics

I do not believe I could overstate the impact Coach Meyer had on so many that played for him, worked with him or met him during his time at Lipscomb University.  Through his own words and, more importantly, his example, he encouraged everyone he met to be a better player, student, coach, son or daughter, father or mother and person and all those whose lives crossed Coach Meyer's path will be the better for it.

As I told a friend last week, the challenge isn't trying to determine what impact he had around here.  That's well-established and it's enormous. It's trying to determine - given all those he touched as a coach, a camp director, a clinician, a professor, a speaker and a friend to people all across the country and even in other countries  - where his impact ended.  That's the challenge.

He is a legend and his presence will be missed, but his impact will live on.

 

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University, Men's Basketball Head Coach

With the passing of Don our great game has lost one of its superstars. He was a truly amazing coach and teacher. Don shared his knowledge with coaches for decades and helped the game become better at every level. His players benefited from his teachings both on and off the court. His goal was for them to be successful as players and as men. He always accomplished his goal! I have always considered it my honor to be his friend.

 

Tubby Smith, Texas Tech University, Men's Basketball Head Coach

College basketball lost not only a great coach, but a great man today. It has been such an honor to have gotten to know Don Meyer as a man and a coach. He has meant so much to the game of basketball. He will truly be missed.

 

Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt University, Men's Basketball Head Coach

I am sad to hear of the passing of Coach Meyer. He was a pillar of coaching in our community for a long time and influenced the lives of many young men, whether they were his own players at Lipscomb or the countless others who visited his summer camps.  But, as impressive as his record was as a coach, I believe his lasting legacy will be the way he embraced and overcame adversity and his difficult health circumstances later in life. He lived his life with dignity and grace and kept fighting the fight, a lesson that we can all follow in our own lives. He will be greatly missed.

 

Casey Alexander, Lipscomb University, Men's Basketball Head Coach

The Lipscomb Basketball family lost its leader Sunday morning.  Coach Meyer's fingerprints are all over this basketball program and they always will be.

I'm grateful every day I come to work that Lipscomb has such a rich basketball tradition.  Over a thousand players have worn the Bison uniform and many coaches have come & gone, but Coach Meyer's tenure at Lipscomb set the standard.

Coach Meyer made had a positive influence on so many coaches all across the country.  He was always eager to talk hoops & share ideas with anybody that would listen.  There are very few, if any, that love the game of basketball as much as Coach Meyer did.

I credit Coach Don Meyer for all of the success I've been able to obtain in coaching. He gave me a philosophy of how to teach the game. In that philosophy came core value ideas like work ethic, preparation, unselfishness and a willingness to constantly compete.

 

Rick Byrd, Belmont University Men's Basketball Head Coach

"I learned so much from Don about how to coach and to run a basketball program. If Lipscomb's basketball program wasn't such a strong program and if Coach Meyer weren't such a good coach, Belmont's basketball program would not be what it is today. There isn't any basketball coach in the state of Tennessee or probably in the nation who had more influence on teaching the game of basketball and on the coaching profession. I treasure his friendship. Everyone in the Belmont community mourns the passing of Coach Don Meyer. Our thoughts and prayers and with Carmen and the entire Meyer family."

 

Beth Harwell, Tennessee Speaker of the House of Representatives

As one of the country's greatest coaches, Coach Don Meyer was an inspiration who brought out the best in his players, fellow coaches, and everyone he met. My prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

 

Barbara Anderson, Administrative Assistant to Coach Meyer from 1983-1999, aka "Mama Bison"

Outside of my husband, coach is the very best friend I've ever had. He taught me how to do things the right way. He always complimented me on my work ethic which meant the world to me because I don't think anyone works harder than he does. I loved doing things for him and wanted to take care of everything so that he could concentrate on coaching. I was blessed to have been a part of this special program.

 

Tom Kelsey, Bison player, Louisiana State University, Director of Basketball Operations

For those of us who played for Coach, he was much more than just a coach. He was more than a teacher. He was a powerful mentor. At the time we were playing we probably didn’t understand the magnitude of how he would later impact our lives.

His influence on the game was tremendous, he demanded excellence and he deep down cared. He cared whether you were a member of the maintenance crew or the president of the school. He didn’t see titles or status. He treated everyone with respect.

To be part of his team you had leave your ego at the door.  You had to teachable. You had to be willing to give an all out effort. He pushed us to give every ounce we had.

We would run through a wall for him out of respect. We learned later in life it was because we loved him.

If you had the chance to play for him you are part of a special breed they can never take away. He was a legend. A legend for more than wins, but for how he molded young men. He shaped the team and at the same time was shaping the lives of each individual involved with the program.

Those of us who went into coaching had the chance to input his ideas into our program and at the same time still draw on him for a source of wisdom. He was always willing to help and give advice. A great advantage for us to use his coaching tidbits.

For those of us who played for him it is like losing a parent. There will be a tremendous void. I will miss the phone calls. Miss hearing him give a speech. Miss it all.

I am grateful for such an opportunity to play for him and to coach for him. I will miss him a great deal.


Wade Tomlinson, Bison player

Coach was one word to me—everything. I'm thankful and lucky to have known him. I use the lessons he taught me about leadership every day in my job. Not a day goes by that I don't do or say something that I learned from coach. The Christian principles, leadership lessons, motivational messages and how to live are lessons I am passing to my children. They will live on for generations.

 

Brian Ayers, Bison player

Over twenty years have passed since I played for Coach.  During that time, I can’t remember any type of communication with him (face-to-face, telephone call, email exchange,  hand-written note) that did not end the same way…If I can help you in any way, just let me know.  Each time I heard that I knew, Coach was making a promise to me.  Whenever I needed help or advice, Coach was always there.  From my playing days, I will remember how fierce a competitor he was - pushing and demanding that everyone in the program be striving for excellence.  But now, all these years later, my lasting impression of Coach is a man of compassion, kindness and humility. 


John Wild, Bison player, former Lipscomb assistant women's basketball coach, current head girls basketball coach Wilson Central High School

I remember a few things about when I played for him, but I hold closely when he held my son Slayton at the State Tournament, the trip to watch Indiana practice when Bob Knight was the Hoosiers coach, piling in the blue Honda with him to watch a kid play once I graduated and being able to call and pick his brain about an idea that may help the team I was coaching.

 

Pete Froedden, Bison player, former Lipscomb assistant coach, current boys basketball head coach Wheaton Academy

Three years ago coach was asked to speak at the Kentucky high school basketball coaching clinic in Lexington. He called me and asked if I would drive him from Nashville to Lexington and if I did, I could go free to the clinic. I instantly cleared everything on my schedule and anticipated, like crazy, the opportunity to spend some one on one time with coach. When the time came, we spent the 3-plus hour drive taking about everything you could imagine. But somehow it all led back to the state of our government. Not being someone who publicly voices my political beliefs; I think coach sensed that and was simply not going to let it go. I was either going to fight him or agree with him. To him, right was right and wrong was wrong. That's what I loved about him. You always knew where he stood.

Once we got to the Hyatt, I pulled up to the front, let coach out and went to park the car. He checked in and went up to the room. After getting the car parked I received a text with the room number and a short comment that read, "we got a problem". Once I got to the room I asked him what was the problem. Looking extremely worried and nervous, he looked at me then looked to his right and simply said, "One bed"! I immediately starting laughing and said, "that's not even close to the biggest problem". He said, "What"? I said, jokingly, "I sleep in the nude". He never batted an eye. Later that night, he asked for extra pillows and began building a pillow barrier between the two of us. Classic Coach!

A special time that I will remember for the rest of my life. The love and honor that was displayed by the 300+ coaches attending the clinic was simply incredible. At the end of the clinic he must have spent over 3 hours talking with well-wishers and answering coaching questions. Always giving!

 

Greg Eubanks, Bison player

My first memory of coach was him carrying me through McQuiddy to his office after a dog bit me on the face after a game. He always had a heart for kids.

I think the biggest testimony to Coach is how guys from multiple generations of teams and from Lipscomb and Northern who are friends and encourage each other. We speak the same language of "Meyerisms". There is a real sense of family.

My vision of heaven this morning is of Jesus being continuously praised by Coach. Sitting at the dinner table is John Wooden, Chuck Ross, Mr. Langley, Jeff Spivey, an intellectually disabled child from South Dakota, and a Class A high school basketball coach from New Mexico that just met Coach but he wanted to visit so Coach invited him over to sit with them. Also, they are eating fried fish but not worrying  about what it's doing to their arteries."

 

John Pierce, Bison player

There are not many days that go by that I don't hear the voice of Coach in my head. As a coach now and a father of five, his philosophies have profoundly influenced the way that I teach, coach, and parent. "Attitude and effort", "next right thing right", "what's us and what's not us" are some of the phrases that are on constant repeat in my head. I am proud of Coach's accomplishments, I am thankful for his magnified love for his family and Jesus after the accident, I am proud to have played for Coach and thankful for his influence on my life.

 

Jason Shelton, Bison player

Coach spent his life teaching & influencing so many. Basketball was the tool he used to impact countless lives. He is the reason so many of us coach today, to try and give to others what he gave to us. Proud to call him "Coach"

 

Richard Taylor, Bison player

What made this great man exceptional is not the fact that he knew so much about the game of  basketball and that he taught basketball at a level that exceeded any coach in any league, but the fact that he used basketball to transform boys into Godly men who pursued excellence.  There is not a day that goes by that I don't reflect on my experience as a Bison.  Whether it’s "Do the next right thing right and do it that way everytime", or  "Arete", or "Execute the fundamentals of the game for the welfare of the team", or "Leave the locker room cleaner than we arrived", or “It is not what you achieve, but who you become”, or any of the other 1,000 thoughts or phrases I subconsciously recall every day,  I depend on the Bison Paradigm to guide me through my life.

Over time, I have realized that most all of Coach’s sayings were based on the scripture and the truths we find there.  He didn’t try to recreate the truth, he simple used basketball as a stage to teach, mentor and encourage.  He was the consummate student who wanted to improve every day.  He was incredibly relevant as a teacher.  He role modeled service, leadership, courage, toughness, and perseverance. He loved the journey more than the event and he believed that relationships with people were the most important thing.  He often said that “it is not that being a good role model is an important thing, but maybe it is the only thing”.  His life was so compelling and his example so powerful.  He was a thankful man who brought honor to Jesus with his life.  His legacy of Servant Leadership will live forever and his impact on people will continue to ripple for many, many generations to come.

I consider myself to be so fortunate and lucky to be a Bison.  God blessed so many of us with the opportunity to be a part of Coach’s family. He will be greatly missed but his influence is eternal.  From the absolute core of my soul, I say Thank You and God Bless You Coach.  You are my friend, my role model and my Coach.

 

Ricky Bowers, Bison player

God has brought home his good and faithful servant and our coaching profession, all sports included, has lost its most passionate teacher. I have lost my coach, mentor, and friend.

 

Andy McQueen, Bison player

Coach was the ultimate teacher.  He modeled excellence, hard work and service in his own life, and taught us with simple, direct and memorable words that still resonate with me even today.   His influence on me has been meaningful and lasting.  I am thankful every day for the opportunity I had to play for Coach Meyer and am proud to have called him my Coach.

 

Allen Sharpe, Bison player, University of Arkansas-Monticello Men's Basketball Head Coach

Coach Meyer and I had a relationship that was quite unique and began many years before I played at Lipscomb.  I met coach when I was 8 years old and it wasn’t because I was attending his camps. We met because he was playing my dad’s team, Arkansas-Monticello, in the 1986 NAIA national championship game. Needless to say, Lipscomb went on to win that game and I returned to Monticello.

As I got older my dad encouraged me to attend coach’s camps every summer but I never did. Ten years after Lipscomb won the national championship I signed to play for coach and the Bisons…one of the best decisions of my life. Almost 30 years later my son, Garrison, was able to meet coach and hear him speak at a clinic in October. Of course he talked to Garrison more than me but I would not have wanted it any other way. Coach worked with him on his batting stance and how to grip a curve ball but encouraged him not to use it in fear of hurting his arm. I was a proud father that day because my son got to spend a few minutes with my coach.

 

Andy Blackston, Bison player

It is simply amazing when you stop to consider all the ways that Coach Meyer has impacted people.  Other than my own father, Coach Meyer has had a bigger impact on me than anyone I have ever met.  He was so much more than just a great basketball coach, he was a teacher of life.  As a former player and current coach, I find myself using his philosophy of life more than any of his coaching strategies, especially his teachings on servant leadership and teamwork.  Coach had a way with words and phrases that made the concepts he communicated stick in your head.  I use his pearls of wisdom on a daily basis.  

He challenged everyone around him to pursue excellence in a way that made you want to please him.  While he was extremely demanding and uncompromising on the standards of hard work and team attitude, you always knew he cared about you.  He showed you this through handwritten notes, a motivational handout, or a funny joke.  Some of my most memorable moments with Coach are the trips that we took to watch other teams practice.  He took aspiring coaches like myself to watch legendary coaches like Pat Summitt, Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzweski, Bobby Knight, & Rick Pitino.  The long road trips allowed you to see a side of Coach Meyer that many never got to see.  

I discovered that behind his tough, demanding demeanor was a man that had a huge heart for people.  The most memorable moment occured several years after graduation, when I was a young head coach at Austin Peay State University.  I was about as down as I could be with the circumstances of my season and once he got word I received an unexpected phone call at 5:45am.  Coach Meyer was on the other line and told me that he was waiting for me at the Cracker Barrel in Clarksville.  Knowing that he took the time and effort to reach out meant more to me than words can describe.  The only way you can truly honor his memory is to embody and practice the principles of life that he modeled.  

Coach Meyer will be greatly missed by many people.  Reflecting on his life will help us all remember and honor his legacy, a legacy that at every turn declares that Coach Don Meyer made the world a better place.

 

Keith Edwards, Bison player

He was a task master on the fundamentals of the game. He had a tremendous gift on how to teach the game and he shared his gift with others.

 

Alan Banks, Bison player

I think I can speak for many of us when I say that Coach left a mark on our lives in ways that are impossible to measure.  Not only did he change me and my perspective on life.  More importantly, he changed how I dealt with life.

He changed how I conduct myself.
He changed how I treat others.
He changed how I treat my wife.
He changed how I raised my children
He changed how I coached hundreds of players many whom are still playing today.
He changed how I do business.

He changed how I view Christ.
And...Coach changed how I live.

It is funny.  Coach has been blessed throughout his life with so much success, so many accomplishments and so many awards.  He has videos and books and has changed the way basketball is played as well as the way it is coached.  But, even with all of these things that he can hang on his resume and legacy…he is probably best known for one simple statement:  "Pick up trash".

Such a simple statement, from a simple man...that has changed the lives of a generation.

He was a man like no other.

 

Rob Browne, Bison player

Coach Meyer signed me in Atlanta on his way to the Final Four in 1987 in New Orleans. I had a ton of bushy, red hair then. 8 weeks later I showed up at day camp at DLC with a crew cut. He saw me come into the dorm, looked at me and said, "Crap, we thought you were a 7 footer." He then turned and walked off. 27 years later I'm still not sure if he wanted to revoke the scholarship offer on site or if he was just kidding. Either way, it's a memory I will always cherish.

 

Marcus Bodie, Bison player

Don Meyer was a great person with an eye for great potential. There is an old saying, “You become like the person you hang around”. In many ways, I have taken on some of Coach Meyer’s persona as a coach and as a person. He was a great coach, counselor, friend, mentor, and most of all a spiritual advisor to me. Coach Meyer talked about preparation on many accounts in areas of practice, life, choices, and the afterlife. He was prepared and ready for this transition.  

I will miss that bald headed guy, with that one eye glaring at you, yelling out instructions  with the intensity and anticipation of you, accomplishing the request that was made. Then to see the facial expression of his approval during many off the court events. No words were necessary. For his expression exemplified his feelings. With a brief smile, the moment our eyes connected, we knew all things were great for that moment.  It was like a big bright sun smiling down own you on a clear summer day.  Coach Meyer’s spirit will continue to live in my heart and soul.  His legacy will last until eternity. He was and will continue to be My college basketball coach who has prepared me for what is to come.

 

Aaron Trenary, former Bison Athletic Trainer

Coach Meyer started his career at Lipscomb the same year I started as the trainer for the basketball team. His passion and respect were influential in his impact on all of us. He could always insert humor into life. Most importantly, his life was a shining star for Christ and he had love for all. The Bible study classes he taught on Wednesday night were awesome. One of my memories exemplifying his passion was being called one night to meet a person looking for answers at the Krystal restaurant on Franklin Road around 1 AM to talk about Christ and the meaning of salvation in Christ for all of us. I am thankful for Coach Meyer as a mentor and friend. To his memory for going above and beyond.

 

Charles Frasier, Lipscomb faculty

He may have been in his 3rd of 4th year at Lipscomb and we were having lunch in the faculty lounge. I always enjoyed being with Don on a personal basis when the opportunities arose. I guess this was before his Captain D's days. He finished lunch and was about to leave, but came back to the table and asked me to put my two thumbs on the edge of the table. He took my water glass and placed on top of my two thumbs and "left the building." He always left a memory.

I was privileged to have his two wonderful daughters, Brooke and Brittany, in accounting class - two highly motivated, super, academic students, but most of all, two very kind and caring students and friends.

I was fortunate, like several others, to have been at Lipscomb for his full tenure, all the way from losing ball games with the score 29-23 to winning many games when scoring over 100 points. He gave new meaning to "winning tradition" at Lipscomb and created tremendous school spirit. The trips to Kemper Arena were very special, whether winning or losing.

Don was a Godly man, always thinking of others, teaching all of us how to live and how to give.

 

Ritchie Pickens, Bison player

After playing Bison Baseball for four years I was fortunate to be a SAC for the Bison Basketball during my 5th year. During the Christmas break I was getting married and had to ask Coach Meyer if I could miss a travel game and some practices. I stopped him outside of Swang one day and asked if he minded me missing for my wedding. Coach paused for a moment and simply said "Ritchie...you are either in or your out" and he walked off. I had no idea at that time whether Coach was kidding or not...it probably was hilarious to him...and made me think about commitment...which has served me well in both athletics and marriage.

 

Wil Thornthwaite, former Bison broadcaster

I moved back to Nashville in February, 1976 with my family still back in New Jersey. One night I decided to go over to McQuiddy to see what I think was the last home game of Coach Meyer's first season at Lipscomb. I walked in the gym late in the second half with a sparse crowd in the stands. I watched as his team held the ball for what seemed forever. As I recall the Bisons lost the ball and the other team scored the winning basket at the buzzer. What I remember is the discipline his team showed in holding the ball. Disciplined play would always be a hallmark of Coach Meyer teams. I was privileged to watch all of his teams over the years and was blessed to be part of the radio broadcast crew in close to 450 games over the years including a run of 12 years from the 1987-88 season through his last year. I was blessed to know Don and his family and thank him for helping me to be a better husband, father and person.

 

Gerald Keith, former camper

Best basketball camp I ever attended! Only camp where I did the hokie pokie in the middle of lunch so you could show us that acting cool was not cool. You taught us to take a charge. Not a flop like you see so often today, but a real, stand in there and take it, charge. If we failed to say thank you to those serving our lunch we did push ups. I learned so much from you, Coach. You taught me the value of respecting everyone at every level of the game and in life. I only had a week with you and can't even imagine how you changed the lives of those that played for you. You will be missed! RIP coach.

 

Charlie Pope, camp instructor

My favorite memory of coach was when I was working summer camps for him in the summer of 1992 and it was the first week of camp. I was a student assistant at another college but wanted to learn basketball from the best so he agreed to let me come and work for him at camp. We were over at the high school getting things ready, he and Coach Turner and myself and a few more guys and Coach remembered something at the basketball office he needed to go and get so he looks at me, because I was standing closest by, and said "hey, come with me and let's get.....".

We walked over to the little blue camp truck we used and he said, "can you drive a stick?". I shook my head and we took off......it took him all of a five seconds to figure out I couldn't and he laughed at me while teaching me to drive that truck but I was too scared to tell him I didn't know how because I wanted to be around him! When we got back to the high school gym he told me to stay out in the parking lot and practice because I was going to be driving him around the rest of the day! That was my real first memory and after that I always knew coach cared about all of us, no matter who we were. Thank you coach! You will be missed!

 

Carl McKelvey, Lipscomb University, Director, Center of Spirtual Renewal, and member of Lipscomb Athletics Hall of Fame

My last telephone discussion with coach was one I will never forget. We talked about old times ...how they were the best of times. I told him I missed seeing him and that I loved and appreciated him. He returned the same sentiments to me.

How thankfull I am that he was a part of my life!

 

Lynn Griffith, Lipscomb University, Faculty, Department of Kinesiology

I worked along side Coach Meyer for many years as an instructor in the Health and Physical Education Department (now the Kinesiology Dept.) and as a fellow athletic coach at Lipscomb. I was even his "academic boss" for a few years during an eight year stint as a department chair. My memories of Coach are many, but my reaction to his passing is simple.

I cannot overstate the influence that it had on my life as 27 year old coach to come to work daily and to be able to daily be able to drink from the knowledge of coaching and life that Don Meyer and Ken Dugan possessed. I use something I learned from these two men every day of my life! As already has been stated, enjoy Heaven. You deserve it. I am sure Chuck Ross already has your phone number. 

 

Kristin Ryman, Lipscomb University, Head Softball Coach

“I remember during the first year of the Don Meyer Evening of Excellence, all of the coaches had the opportunity to go through a session with Coach Meyer.  We basically had breakfast and lunch and sat with Coach Meyer all day.

“He gave us a lot of advice. He told us a lot of stories about things that had happened to him and his experiences. It was kind of a mentoring time for all of our coaches. It was neat to hear from someone who had done it for so long and who had done it so well.

“He was giving back. He wanted to see the coaches at Lipscomb continue to do it the right way I remember taking so many notes that day. I was scribbling as fast as I could because I wanted to take in as much as I could.

“I appreciate how great a coach he was, but I really appreciate his willingness to give back. Everywhere we go when I am traveling with the team or I am out recruiting when someone sees `Lipscomb’ more often than not the connection is always Coach Meyer. It is amazing the connections people had with him. It isn’t about Nashville or anything we have done in recent years. It is always about Coach Meyer.”

 

J.J. Dillingham, Lipscomb University, Assistant Softball Coach

“I started at Lipscomb University in the fall of 1993. But I knew Jerry, Brooke and Brittany when I was growing up at the campus school. Mrs. Meyer (Carmen) was my P.E. teacher when I was in elementary school so I go back to the 1980s in different aspects with the family.

“When I first started as a student coach in softball in 1995 Coach Meyer encouraged me and gave me great support.  I just soaked it up and enjoyed every minute I could spend with him.

“But he told me so much more than just how to be a better coach. He told me how to be a better person, how to be a better man, a better father and a better husband. Those types of things will live along with me and with so many generations down the road.

“He was really good about writing notes. That is one thing I have tried to work on. I received numerous notes and cards from him with the sayings he would include. His web site is a great resource for inspiration or for coaching information.”

 

Gregory Ruff, Trevecca Nazaerene University, Director of Sports Information

I arrived on the campus of Trevecca Nazarene College in January of 1981. I soon discovered a great desire to see the Belmont College Rebels and David Lipscomb College Bisons lose. I had graduated a year earlier than most from high school and was the living definition of an immature freshman.

Each school had distinctively different coaches. Don Purdy was the coach at Belmont and it was hard to not like his “favorite uncle" personality. But the coach at Lipscomb though… Oh my, it was almost impossible to like him. Or so I thought at the time.

Coach Meyer was in his sixth season at Lipscomb and on the cusp of realizing his coaching legacy. The Bisons had a 25-11 season that year, a year before going 33-4 and advancing to the NAIA National Tournament for the first time.

My first experience with Coach Meyer came on January 8, 1981 at the Trojan Fieldhouse. Trevecca won the game. It was the second of four meetings that year. The teams eventually split the four games. Trevecca coach Frank Wilson and Don Meyer had many battles and for several years Coach Wilson had the advantage in the series with Coach Meyer. It wasn’t until the late 80’s that Meyer began to even things up.

As a student at Trevecca I fell in love with radio. It wasn’t long before I had worked my way into sports broadcasting with WNAZ. My favorite games were always those with Belmont and Lipscomb. The series with Lipscomb was especially tense. Lipscomb’s McQuiddy Gym and the Trojan Fieldhouse were overflowing with fans during those years. If you got in, you didn’t want to move because you might not get your seat back.

As the years went on, I began to see more of Don Meyer than his public persona.  I began to notice there was something more than I had first perceived about this man I loved to see lose.

All any of us who cheered against Lipscomb saw was his sideline body language, facial expressions, and his tape recorder. We made fun of his quotes and his player mandated notebooks.

In the winter of 1985 I was working an afternoon music shift at WNAZ when the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “This is Coach Meyer at Lipscomb.” My first thought was, “what does he want?” Then he began to talk about how much he appreciated our broadcasts of the games and that he also enjoyed listing to the music we played.

I thanked him and the conversation ended. I remember thinking at the time why in the world he called. He didn’t ask for anything, just called to say thanks.

The following year I got a note in the mail from him that was similar to the conversation we had during the phone call a year earlier. Again, he never asked for anything.

The battles with Lipscomb were growing as both Trevecca and Lipscomb were building their programs to levels not seen before. Meyer had gone from a slow down style to the more up-tempo style that Frank Wilson had developed at Trevecca.

Under Wilson, the Trojans were pegging 90 points more often than not, but when they played Lipscomb, in those late 70’s and early 80’s games, the scores ranged from the upper 40’s to upper 60’s.

Meyer, in a later interview about those years, credited Frank Wilson forcing him to move to a more offensive mindset. I always believed he saw the entertainment value of the faster paced and higher scoring style of play and found a way to make it work in his system.

By the time the 1985-86 season arrived the scores between Trevecca and Lipscomb had moved into the 70’s and 90’s. In what was Lipscomb’s NAIA Championship season, they defeated Trevecca in the TCAC Championship game 99-78.

The mid to late 80’s were the heyday of the Trevecca/Lipscomb rivalry. The teams were throwing punches in recruiting, with style of play, and during the games themselves – not literally. The games were like walking on pins and needles. Each possession was crucial, or so it seemed.

The1986-87 season was one of the best basketball seasons I can remember. It was the best season in Trevecca basketball history. The Trojans finished 30-4 and only lost one conference game, to Christian Brothers. Lipscomb owned one of those three regular season losses, a 99-93 early season win in the preseason conference tournament.

Trevecca went on to defeat the defending NAIA champions three times that year. The final win in that run was the best basketball game I’ve ever broadcast. It was a 112-106 double overtime Trojan win at Trevecca in the semifinals of the NAIA District 24 tournament. It ended Lipscomb’s chance at repeating at national champion. Trevecca advanced to their first-ever NAIA National Tournament and reached the quarterfinals. It is still the furthest any Trevecca team has advanced in the NAIA tournament.

I was fortunate enough to go along for the broadcasts and during one of the games I asked Coach Meyer, who was in attendance, to do an interview and he obliged. There really wasn’t anything in it for him, but he agreed and was very complementary of the Trojans and spurned any complements.

I later found out that Coach Meyer had talked with Coach Wilson before the trip and gave Frank a few tips he had learned on Lipscomb's previous trip. Homecourt knowledge that made the Trojans trip a little smoother.

By this time, I was finding it harder to not only to dislike him, but not like him and respect his walk.

After finishing at Trevecca I wanted to continue broadcasting. At the time Belmont didn’t have radio broadcasts for their basketball games and had just completed a year with a promising new coach named Rick Byrd. I worked out a deal with Bill Barry at WAMB and Belmont athletic director Kenny Sidwell to broadcast some Belmont games that year. So, once again I found myself broadcasting against Coach Meyer.

Around the same time I began to work in local sports radio and from time-to-time had Coach Meyer on as a guest. He was always generous and never turned down an interview. He was really beginning to make it hard to even cheer against, well except during the games. I don’t recall him ever asking a favor for any of those interviews. He just did them and was always an entertaining guest.

His basketball camps and videos were unique, ahead of their time, and wildly popular. A lot of people believe he wanted to make money off of those and I’m sure he did. He also wanted to teach and share his basketball and life philosophy. He also used it to take care of those around him financially.

Later on I was hired to broadcast for the Nashville Stars, a professional team in the World Basketball League. The league fielded players that were 6-foot-6 and under. The Stars played at Municipal Auditorium and two of the players that made the team were Lipscomb alums Darren Henry and Marcus Boddie.

Another member of that team was assistant coach Kevin Legate. He was a former Belmont Rebel player and, since it was a league that played in the summer, an assistant for Rick Byrd at Belmont.

As you might imagine we had lots of conversations while traveling around and I got to hear lots of great stories about Lipscomb. Between all our ties to the three schools we had some great stories to share.

I learned that Coach Meyer really was more than the stomping and snorting guy I couldn’t stand on the sideline. He cared about his players. He cared about his way of teaching basketball. I learned that his “way” of basketball was less about x’s and o’s and more about the Jimmy and Joe’s and how they would take those basketball lessons and put them into action in life.

He wanted them to win on the court, but more so, to win in life.

For a number of years now I have gone from cheering against Don Meyer to cheering for him. I cheered for him to find new success when he left Lipscomb. I cheered that at some point reconciliation would become a reality for he and Lipscomb. When he spoke at the ESPY’s, I cheered for him to have more days to share his unique mind with all of us. In recent years I have just cheered that he would be happy and pain free.

I will remember a great number of things about Don Meyer. I will remember that he could coach the game of basketball. I will remember I went from wanting “my” team to beat his team more than any other, to knowing if “my” team did beat his it was something special. I know that he knew how to make money, for himself and those around him. I know he wanted to share his philosophy of life more than his philosophy of basketball. I know that I loved his dry wit and self-depreciating sense of humor. I know that he loved life and fought to live it when all odds were against him.

He is one of those rare people who taught us how to live life for others, fight to live when he could have just packed it in, and how to pass on into eternity with dignity.

I will remember him as the fiercest of competitors. A man’s man who wanted to win almost as much as he wanted those who played for him to win at life. 

But maybe most of all, I will remember that he gave to me many times throughout the years with “out of the blue” thoughtful phone calls, considerate and unexpected cards, granting every interview request, and providing quotes for articles about others and yet not once did he ever ask me for anything in return.

 

Trevecca Nazarene University Trojans

For many Trevecca Trojan fans Don Meyer was someone we enjoyed beating as often as possible and it was never enough. In the end he had the better of the series, but it was always memorable to play his Bisons.

Two Trevecca coaches faced him the most. They were Trevecca’s current coach Sam Harris and his predecessor Frank Wilson.

Both shared some thoughts about the legendary Don Meyer that was a Nashville secret that escaped the country and beyond through his camps and coaching tapes and later through his record collection of wins and appearance on the ESPY’s.

Coach Harris got to know Don Meyer after he had already established himself in Nashville and in the basketball community around the country.

Harris recalled his early encounters with Coach Meyer recruiting, “When I think about Don, I think his ability to multi task was legendary. We’d be out recruiting and he’d be sitting in the stands with me and he’d have his planner out making out his practice plans for the week. I’d always give him a hard time about his notes and he’d laugh back and say I’ll have them in case I need them someday.”

“Things that were important to him might not have been what was important to others, but he had a core belief and was able to stay within that his entire life. He put in a lifestyle system, or process, at Lipscomb that he taught that allowed his kids to grow. He was able to eventually recruit kids that then would teach the underclassmen their system and it just grew from there,” Harris continued.

Harris concluded his comments about Coach Meyer reflecting in what really made him stand above the rest. Harris said, “He had a great mind and anything new that came out he found a way to incorporate it into his system. A lot of coaches do that, but Don was just really good at seeing it, processing it, implementing it, and then perfecting it.”

Former Trevecca Nazarene University men’s basketball coach, Frank Wilson, said of his fierce rival Don Meyer, “Don and I were a lot closer friends than most would have believed. We had lunch together and shared many phone calls. When I got out of coaching I called him and told him that I believed he was the most knowledgeable coach in America.”

“He often said I made him better as a coach. I do know this, he made me a better coach because he was always learning. You could never rest in preparing to play his teams because he always had found a new way to try and defend you and score on you.”

Wilson recalled the help Coach Meyer gave him in 1987 when Trevecca advanced to the NAIA National Championships He did so despite having had his season end following a lost to the Trojans in the Distrit 24 semifinals. Wilson said, “I knew Don’s friendship was real when called and provided a great deal of helpful information we’d need at our first national tournament in Kansas City. Several of his pointers proved to be valuable for us in our first-ever trip to the national tournament.”

“Not many coaches would have done that for us in that situation, it just proved what a good friend he really was to us at Trevecca in those days, despite the rivalry we had on the court,” Wilson said.

Wilson concluded, “He was one of the best coaches in America at any level, and a true professional and good friend for many years.”


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