LipscombSports.com
Don Meyer's presence still strongly felt in Allen Arena

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
by Mark McGee

This Saturday night the 6th Annual Don Meyer Evening of Excellence will be celebrated at Allen Arena. National Baseball Hall of Fame member Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub”, will be the featured speaker. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m.

General admission tickets for the event are $25 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.LipscombTickets.com or by calling 615-966-HERD (4373).  There are also a limited number of sponsorship packages available including meet-and-greet and photo opportunities. Contact Brent High at brent.high@lipscomb.edu for more details.  Doors for the event will open at 4:30 p.m.

The Don Meyer Evening of Excellence is an annual athletic fundraising event that began in 2009 and is named after long-time Lipscomb men’s basketball coach Don Meyer, who retired as the winningest collegiate men’s basketball coach in the history of the sport. Meyer was awarded the “Jimmy V Award for Perseverance” from ESPN at the ESPY Awards in July 2009 following a life-changing car accident and cancer diagnosis.

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Legendary coach Don Meyer last coached a Lipscomb Bisons basketball team in the 1998-99 season.

But his presence is still felt at Allen Arena where the court bears his name. His influence at Lipscomb is stronger than just a logo on a court. He has been a mentor for many of the athletic teams at Lipscomb.

He coached the men’s team at Lipscomb, but his influence over the Lipscomb Lady Bisons basketball team is also being strongly felt through the generations.

It’s a basketball version of the popular game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. But instead of the actor, the relationships are with Meyer.

Lipscomb head coach Greg Brown and assistant coach John Wild both were student assistants under Meyer at Lipscomb. Wild also played for Meyer. Assistant coach Cara Cahak attended Meyer’s camps.

Rick Bowers, the father of first-year Lipscomb assistant coach Anna Bowers, played for Meyer and is one of the top high school coaches in the state of Tennessee. Forward Chandler Cooper’s father, Al, was on Meyer’s teams as well. Alan Banks, the father of forward Alex Banks, also played for Meyer.

It’s a world of notebooks, picking up trash, treating people right and playing tough, fundamental basketball. Meyer’s coaching style and maxims of how to play basketball, as well as how to have a well-lived life, have been handed down from generation to generation.

Meyer has been a frequent visitor to practice sessions for the Lady Bisons for the past couple of years. He has also met with the team on several occasions to talk about basketball techniques and life lessons.

“The challenge as a coach is to see the legacy continue,” Brown said. “It is great to see those who did not know him as a coach embrace him.  He says we are his team.”

Brown has also worked as an assistant for former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and with Joi Williams at UCF.

“You are a sum total of your unique experiences,” Brown said. “After working at UT and UCF to come back to where it all started at Lipscomb was a no brainer.”

Brown feels the presence of Meyer on a daily basis.

“It is hard to go somewhere and not find someone who went to Coach Meyer’s camps or a high coach who watches coach Meyer’s DVDs,” Brown said. “It lends credibility to what we are doing.

“I am not coach Meyer. I am not Pat. I am not Joi. But I take all of those things they stand for culture-wise like simplicity of play, playing tough and playing hard to find the types of players and build the type of environment that we want.”

For Brown the coaching philosophy of Meyer did not require a great amount of adjustment.

“Growing up I took notes watching Boston Celtics games,” Brown said. “I thought I was going to be the next Larry Bird. Between him and Kevin McHale I was going to morph my game into theirs.

“When I got here as a student the notebooks were already part of my culture. After I met coach Meyer and worked camps I saw that he did all of that. The analytical side just appealed to me.”

Brown has completed his second season as the head coach for the Lady Bisons. He believes, like Meyer, that coaching is about what the team will be doing the next year, the next five years or the next 10 years.

“It is all about the toughness of play, intensity and being servant leaders,” Brown said. “It is about having a team attitude centered on the pursuit of excellence.

“The main thing is teaching and developing skills. You are not building a team, you are building a program. That approach sometimes makes it difficult because you don’t always get the results you want right away. But you are encouraged when you see a lot of growth. It is a process.”

 

More than the game

Anna Bowers didn’t realize growing up that many of the things her father said were based on what Coach Meyer had told him.

But as she has matured she has seen the strong connection between Meyer and her father.

“Where he learned the game, and how he learned how to be the coach that he is, comes from Coach Meyer,” Anna said. “He has developed a lot of his own stuff, but it is very clear the correlation between Coach Meyer and Dad through their coaching styles and what they demand from people.

“They are not just coaching to coach. It is not just about the game. It is about the players and developing character. That is one of the things that is most important in Coach Meyer’s philosophy.  I’ve seen it with Coach Brown and my Dad. The game is the game. That is our job but it is all about the kids and it is a lot deeper than playing basketball.”

Chandler did not meet Coach Meyer in person until she came to Lipscomb this year to play basketball.

“I was very much anxious to meet him,” Cooper said. “I had heard about him all of my life. He was what I expected. The similarities between my Dad and him, how both of them interact with and talk to people, were so eerie to see.

“I had heard about Coach Meyer my whole life. My Dad had respect for him. When I heard Coach Meyer talk for the first time here I was choked up. I was proud. I represent Lipscomb, but I represent a foundation that he has built. I want to uphold that the best I can and keep it going to make sure people know where I learned this.”

Chandler transferred from Florida after her freshman season. The familiarity with Coach Meyer’s style, and the influence he has had on Brown, made the transition simpler for her.

“It made it easier to pick up on the concepts here,” Chandler said. “It was the same way I was coached growing up – the same terminology and the same way you are expected to play. “

 

The influence of “Meyerisms”

Chandler and Alex often know what Brown is going to say before he says it.

“It is really funny listening to Coach Brown say things,” Chandler said. “In my mind I think, `my Dad used to say that’. In theory it is all coach Meyerisms.

“I think it is so cool. It all comes back to Coach Meyer. Alex and I have talked about how cool it is to be part of the second generation.”

Alex vividly recalls her first in-person encounter with Meyer. Her father let her skip school to come to Lipscomb for a book signing with Meyer and Buster Olney, ESPN sports reporter and analyst, who authored a book on Meyer entitled “How Lucky You Can Be”.

I had learned from Coach Meyer literally my entire life,” Alex said. “It was awesome to meet him for the first time. I started tearing up.

“I learned almost pretty much everything from him about basketball and life. I remember when I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go to college. From memory Coach Meyer wrote four or five Bible verses in my book when he signed it.  He told me to go read them. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.”

Ironically, the saying of Coach Meyer that Alex remembers the most has nothing to do with how to play basketball.

“The biggest one is pick up the trash,” Alex said. “We should leave a place prettier than it was when we got there.”

Alex and Chandler are always trying to reach the expectations that have been set by Coach Meyer’s philosophy.

“I feel like it is how I have been raised,” Alex said. “There are standards like doing the little things and being nice to everyone. It isn’t pressure to do it, but it is expected.

“Whenever he speaks to us we are hanging on every single word he says. He has been through so much. He is so wise. We are all ears.  We are all listening.”

 

Wild about Meyer

From 1986-87 Wild was a student assistant coach under Meyer. He also played for the Bisons in 1987-88 and 1988-89

"They recruited me a little my senior year when I was at Greater Atlanta Christian School,” Wild said. “When I realized I wasn't going to be offered a scholarship I just decided to come to school at Lipscomb because I had a bunch of friends coming here.”

The spring of his sophomore year Wild realized he wanted to coach and teach.

“I walked over to Holman House (Meyer’s office location) and met with Coach Meyer,” Wild said. “I told him I wanted to go into education and coaching and I wanted to work with the basketball program in some capacity. I started out working summer camps and then became a student assistant coach.

Wild thought in the fall of 1987 that he would return as a student assistant coach. But Meyer had other plans.

“The first day of practice I was over in a corner of the gym with John Hudy getting things ready for the start of practice,” Wild said. “Coach Meyer came up to me and asked me how much time I had before I was going to graduate.

“I told him at least two years and probably an extra semester. He gave that famous grunt and said go talk to Chris Snoddy and get some practice gear and be back in five minutes.”

Wild played back-up at the post position, but he admits he would have been happy just being a student assistant coach.

"I was working for one of the best teachers of basketball that I could have worked for,” Wild said. “The three years I was with him I tried to be as much of a sponge as I could.

“When I started working with Keith Edwards at Friendship Christian in the 1990s that rear view mirror got larger the first couple of years I was coaching. I realized then that Coach Meyer had really had an impact on me. You heard other players talking about it, but it wasn't until I got out and started coaching that I realized the impact he was going to have on me 25 to 30 years down the line."