Former Lipscomb women's basketball head coach and current associate atheletic director Frank Bennett spent more than 20 years working alongside Coach Don Meyer. Coach Bennett was kind enough to put down his reflections on their relationship working together in Lipscomb Athletics. There will be a Celebration of Life for Coach Meyer in Nashville on June 1 at 2 p.m. at Allen Arena on the Lipscomb campus.
Coach Meyer was a great friend, mentor, advisor and example to me.
The impact he made on the basketball world in Tennessee, the southeast and nationwide is well documented. When I traveled a lot with basketball, almost anywhere I went, if someone saw Lipscomb on my shirt, they asked about Don Meyer. Once in airport Jerry Sloan, coach of the Utah Jazz, asked "have they locked up that Meyer guy in Tennessee yet?" Sloan had been a guest "pro" at Bison Basketball Camp along with Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Sam Bowie, Larry Bird, and Dominique Wilkins among others.
He influenced the basketball world in many ways. He told the coaches who worked as counselors at camp that the camp would be the best coaching clinic they would ever attend. He was in essence a great teacher and a coaches' coach. His coaches’ academy brought in college and high school coaches throughout the country. His college post and guard play camps brought in college players from the top NCAA Division I schools including Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina. His videotapes/DVD's were sold to high school and college coaches at every level throughout the nation. In addition to fundamental techniques and skills and X's and O'x, he taught toughness, excellence, attitude and effort. By the late 80's or early 90's 4,500 campers were coming to camp every summer.
I suppose that next to Mike Roller I worked at more Bison Basketball Camps than anyone over a 22 or 23 year period. Most summers we worked every week with July 4th as the only full day off over a two month period. The camps were extremely demanding and very disciplined. A lot of high school coaches sent their players to discipline them and change their attitudes. Most of the gyms were not air conditioned and everyone took notes. It was hard to take notes with sweat dripping all over the page. We usually had to spell the notes to six, seven and eight year olds.
On the first night of every boarding camp all the campers did the Hokey Pokey. The message was to put your whole self into camp and to not to be too cool to do accept instruction and criticism from the coaches. The Hokey Pokey song and dance ended with two claps and two "big dog" barks. Coach loved to tell camp jokes, especially to the younger campers who might be homesick. We even had clinics on how to truly laugh with the whole body and enjoy a good (although very corny) joke. For many years I worked with the youngest campers on the outside courts known as "The Rock" and later as the slab. We loved when he came to tell jokes, including the longest joke known to man with the punch line, "No, No Squaw Bury Shortcake".
You almost had to be there to understand the genius of Coach in creating the camps. He had spent several summers filling notebooks with notes taken at the best basketball camps out west. Highlights of the week were William James Day on Tuesday, Rolo game day on Wednesday and Pro Day on Thursday. Williams James started off with groups chanting or rapping the words, "As you think so shall you be., William James, the Father of U.S. Psychology". The longer version included, "The greatest discovery of our generation is that human beings can change their lives by altering their attitude of mind." This developed into an elaborate competition between gyms to see who could develop the greatest skit, musical adventure or extravaganza for the other campers to see. Rolo day featured a game on Wednesday night where the Bison, or Bison and Lady Bison, players played. Everyone picked a team, and if your team lost, you had to sit on the wall a minute for every point that your team lost by. Between the campers and Bison fans coming to see the game the Lipscomb High School game was usually packed. On Pro Day for several years Ralph Turner took on the guest pro, taunting him and raining three's on him from 40 feet. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner the notebooks were out as Coach taught/preached about attitude, effort and the proper way to play the game. Coach made an acronym of the word Attitude and explained the importance of the word associated with each letter (Awareness and communication, Teachable, Technique, Intensity, Tenacity, Unselfishness, Discipline, Effort + Execution leads to Excellence). He would give a letter or two each morning at breakfast.
The campers reaction to camp was a paradox. A few campers quit and went home. For most they had never worked as hard or been pushed and yelled at as much, but they loved it. The Bison and Lady Bison players were great with the campers and the campers loved to hang around them. It was such a positive, motivating environment and was so much fun that many campers returned five, six, seven or even 10 years.
For the Bison players there was no rest. They taught Early Birds before breakfast, taught at a basket, demonstrated the headliners drills, lifted weights on breaks, played and demonstrated for Coach in front of the whole camp until 10:00 pm or later each night. When the campers went back to the dorm many stayed and worked on their games. Many players would tell you that the two months of campers were the hardest thing that they ever did.
I first met coach at a summer basketball practice with my Lipscomb High School team in McQuiddy Gym. A bald, unshaven guy came up to me at a break and said, "My name is Don Meyer. You are doing a nice job working with your post player." I'm not sure he even told me that he was the new men's basketball coach. That coaching job had been a coaches graveyard with bad records and a coaching change every couple of years. There were no camps. He started from scratch and put Lipscomb on the college basketball map.
It was a year or two later when I worked my first basketball camp. For a couple of years I was the basket coach for his daughters, Brooke and Brittany, along with Stephanie Shouse Lane among others. We went to Bobby Knight One Man Clinic together over two or three days. We traveled to the conference coaches meetings every year. The Bisons and Lady Bisons traveled to all our conference away games on the same bus for 20 years. He always shared ideas, new plays, and quotes. He often said I took his stuff and ran it better than they did. I really stole it and adapted it to fit our personnel and what we needed to do. He allowed me to go to all of his coaching academies at no charge. When he began the college player post and guard camps, he let our players attend at no charge. I learned a lot from all the great coaches he brought to camp, especially in the early years. I missed all of that when he left Lipscomb for Northern.
I loved the evening meal at camp when he dismissed the campers back to their dorm and to the gyms. He usually would pack a cone with what seemed like 10 or more scoops of ice cream. He would sit with the coaches and our families. Coach let the headline coaches' families eat free each evening meal and he let our kids go to camp at no charge. All of my kids were influenced greatly by Coach and the basketball camps. We would tell stories and laugh and have a great time before heading back to the gyms. On Friday night Jan, Carmen, Vicky Roller, Debbie Bowers, Regina Atnip, Sherri Turner and other coaches wives got together and played Trivial Pursuit. On Friday nights he paid for all the coaches, including our kids, to go to Mr Gatti's and enjoy the feeling that our week of hard work in the gyms was over.
I have seen coach in all sorts of situations. I have seen him in good times and in tough times both personally and professionally. Here are some things I have observed.
Coach loved babies, kids, special people and older people and he taught his players and campers that the way you treat those people says a lot about you. Coach loved to help people whether a camper, a young coach, or someone in need. No one will ever know how many people he has helped. He liked nothing more than working with a kid or coach and helping him get better. After I had been paying on two mortgages for many months, he walked up to me at the end of a Sunday night practice and gave me a Kroger sack with $10,000 in $20 dollar bills. He advanced most of my summer camp salary when I needed it most. Through camps he made it possible for me to financially stay at Lipscomb. He persevered and loved his wife and kids through good times and tough times. Don and Carmen are a great testimony to faithfulness and perseverance.
In many ways, the worst thing that ever happened to him, the car accident, was the best thing that ever happened to him. After the accident he was able to tell his friends, his family, and associates how much he appreciated them and what they meant to him. After the accident he lost the bitterness he felt toward Lipscomb in the move to Division I. He was completely opposed to the move from NAIA to Division I and fought it as long as he could.
The courage and perseverance he showed after his accident inspired many more people than he had influenced before. It was great blessing to me when Dr. Lowry sent me to the hospital in Sioux Falls a couple of days after the accident so that I could spend a few days with him, Carmen, Brooke, Brittany, Wade Tomlinson and a few others. He really wanted to be able to coach and work with kids again. He developed a more personal relationship with the Lord and was able to share his faith more freely than ever before. He rose early and studied Scripture and asked the Holy Spirit to lead him through each day. He wanted nothing more than to be a conduit of blessings to others, and he asked the Lord to show him who he could help that day. In his Servant Leadership series he influenced businesses, churches, coaches and schools throughout the country. He said at camp many years ago that he would much rather burn out than rust out. He got the most he could out of every moment he had in this life.
Coach is taking part in the greatest victory celebration of all time, the victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ, his Lord (I Corinthians 15). I have a hope of seeing him again and taking part in that celebration.
Coach had a huge impact on my life as a friend and mentor. We were very different in our personalities, but very similar in our passion as competitors and our passion for the game and the people entrusted to us.