Don Meyer has left this world physically and is spending eternity in heaven, but he is still very much alive in this world.
It would not be surprising if the first words he hears are, “Welcome home. Buddy,” from Lipscomb “super fan” Chuck Ross.
If the legacy of a person is the number of people he influenced then Coach Meyer’s will be taller than any memorial made of stone.
He impacted the lives of thousands upon thousands of basketball players. Not only did he teach them the skills of the game he loved, he taught them the fundamentals of how to be the best they can be whether it be in their church, their family or their career.
Meyer taught them that living a life of positive influence starts with the simplest of acts – picking up trash, saying yes sir and no sir or expressing gratitude.
To say that Meyer, who passed away peacefully at his home in Aberdeen, South Dakota after a long and courageous battle with cancer, was just a basketball coach is far too inadequate of a description of his life. He was a talker. He was a listener. Most of all he was a philosopher who could find a lesson in almost any aspect of life.
He was a note taker and those that played for him also took notes. They did more than scribble words. They took what he said and allowed it to sink into their minds. But most importantly they allowed what those words meant to find a place in their hearts.
Those players have passed along much of Coach Meyer’s philosophy to their own children, other family members, their employees and co-workers. In the continuum of life his words will be heard by generations who never met him personally or heard him speak, earth’s version of immortality.
The man with a brief case loaded with Captain D’s coupons could be intimidating, inspiring, infuriating but most all intriguing. He could scowl and ferociously rant with the best of them on the sidelines. Off the court, however, he was known for helping many in need. He was also blessed with a quick and often desert dry wit
Coach Meyer came to Lipscomb University in 1975 to take over a basketball program sorely in need of a change in direction, a team with only one season with 20 or more wins in its history. He was a relatively unknown coach from Hamline University, a man with a 37-41 record, who would take the Lipscomb program to historic heights.
By the time he left following the 1998-99 season he had led the Bisons to 12 seasons with 30 or more wins. In 1986 his team won the NAIA National Championship. The 1989-90 team set a national season record winning 41 games, losing only five.
His players also succeeded at record levels. He produced the top two scorers in the history of college basketball, three national players of the year and 22 All-Americans. He also produced all-time career leaders in 3-point shooting, steals and assists.
In the summers he didn’t rest on his laurels. He started the most successful basketball camp in the country with an average of 5,000 campers each year. He became known of his instructional videos and was sought out by coaches for advice and for visits to coaching schools and seminars.
It is almost impossible to find a basketball coach at any level of the game who has not attending one of Coach Meyer’s camps or clinics or studied his videos. In both Tennessee and South Dakota, the two states where he spent the majority of his career his influence can be seen on almost every high school basketball court.
When Lipscomb decided to start the process of moving the athletic department to the NCAA Division I level Meyer chose to leave his position as head coach of the Bisons. He had reached the 500-victory level faster than any coach in collegiate history while with Lipscomb.
At his next stop Northern State in Aberdeen, he continued his winning ways and retired as the winningest coach in college basketball history. The 2009-2010 season was his last on the bench, but it was not his choice.
On Sept. 5, 2008 Coach Meyer was injured in an automobile accident. Eight surgeries would be needed, including the amputation of his left leg below the knee. During the course of his treatment it was also discovered that he had cancer in both his liver and small intestine.
Many people faced with such a diagnosis would resign themselves to wait for the inevitable, but Coach Meyer was a fighter and he would go the canvas without a fight. He was invigorated and spent his time criss-crossing the country speaking to all type of audiences from the Lipscomb women’s basketball team to the managers and coaches in the Atlanta Braves baseball system.
In 2009 Coach Meyer was presented the “Jimmy V Award for Perseverance” named in honor of the late college coach Jim Valvano, from ESPN at the ESPY Awards.
He is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, the Lipscomb Athletics Hall of Fame and the Northern State Hall of Fame.
The court at Allen Arena was named in Coach Meyer’s honor Dec. 3, 2011. The playing floor at Northern State is also named in his honor.
Coach Meyer was born in Wayne, Nebraska; He graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 1967 majoring in physical education and minoring in English.
His first coaching job was as an assistant at Western State in Colorado from 1968-70. He also served as an assistant coach at the University of Utah from 1970-72 and earned his Ph.D. during that time. His first head coaching job at Hamline was from 1972-75.
Lipscomb will host a memorial service honoring Coach Meyer on Sunday, June 1 at 2 p.m. at Allen Arena. There will also be a memorial event held in Aberdeen, S.D at the Barnett Center on the campus of Northern State University at 3 p.m. on May 24.
My heart goes out to the family of my dear friend, Don Meyer. May we celebrate his life as a man of integrity and a legend in our game.— Pat Summitt (@patsummitt) May 19, 2014
One of the giants in our profession, Don Meyer, passed away over the weekend. I’ve been watching Don’s tapes & learning from him for years.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 19, 2014
Don was a coach who always moved the ball forward, was ahead of his time, developed championship teams & championship people. We'll miss him— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 19, 2014
RIP Coach Don Meyer. U made time to help every coach regardless of level, including me a long time ago. U were GOD sent to us. We miss u— Frank Martin (@FrankMartin_SC) May 18, 2014
May he RIP-Don Meyer was so courageous & captivated so many with his incredible life. http://t.co/iTWNMzhfdQ— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) May 18, 2014
I'm very sorry to to hear about Coach Don Meyer's passing. What an inspiring leader and a friend to @NorthernStateU and to South Dakota.— Gov. Dennis Daugaard (@SDGovDaugaard) May 18, 2014
Just heard about the passing legendary Don Meyer. A great coach, great man and an incredible contributor to the game of college basketball.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) May 18, 2014
@CoachDonMeyer I loved being a towel boy for your teams at LU. A true legend, inspiration, and genuine human. Enjoy Heaven! U deserve it!— Caleb Joseph (@McGrattan17) May 18, 2014
RIP @CoachDonMeyer You will be missed. Your impact crossed sport. You legacy lives in the lives you touched.— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) May 18, 2014
As an alum of @CoachDonMeyer basketball camps, condolences to the family of a great coach and exemplary man.— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) May 19, 2014
Been arnd @CoachDonMeyer for ~30 yrs. Most intense & passionate person I've ever met. Never once heard him use profanity ... Communicator— Shannon B. Terry (@sbterry247) May 18, 2014
Sorry 2 hear Coach Don Meyer passed. Once told me every kid &coach on ur team must b willing 2 pick up trash. Think about that attitude. RIP— Mark Fox (@coachmarkfox) May 18, 2014
Sad day with the passing of @CoachDonMeyer. Great coach; tremendous person. The game of basketball was better because of his involvement.— The Naismith Trophy (@NaismithTrophy) May 18, 2014
Praise God for the life of @CoachDonMeyer. May God comfort and bless all the Meyer family.— Steve Potts (@StevePottsAD) May 18, 2014