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Hall of Famers, Meyer and Banks, celebrate excellence

Saturday, April 19, 2014
by Mark McGee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Old habits die hard.

When Don Meyer was speaking as part of the sixth annual “Evening of Excellence” held each year in his honor former Lipscomb standout Wade Tomlinson was sitting in the second row taking notes.

“I didn’t want to have to run,” Tomlinson said with a broad smile.

Meyer is known for many things in his life. He is a member of six different halls of fame. He coached the Bisons to the 1986 NAIA National Championship. He retired as the winningest men’s collegiate basketball coach of all time. In 2009 he was presented the “Jimmy V Award for Perseverance” from ESPN at the ESPY Awards.

But his players will always remember three of his rules: always take notes, always say “yes sir”, “yes ma’am”, “no sir” and “no ma’am” and always pick up trash.

Meyer spoke before Ernie Banks, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the man known as “Mr. Cub” came to the stage at Allen Arena Saturday night for a question and answer session with Jonathan Seamon, “Voice of the Bisons”. Meyer received a standing ovation as he entered the stage and as he left.

Meyer talked about the importance of having friends, stressing it is a mark of success.

“Jesus befriended people, even the scum of the earth,” Meyer said. “He cared about people’s lives.”

Meyer talked about Jesus getting up early each morning to pray. He doesn’t know what Jesus prayed about, but he knows how he approaches God.

“I thank God for dying for me and for saving me,” Meyer said. “Then I talk to the Holy Spirit and I ask him six things Jesus can do through me during the day. The Holy Spirit provides guidance. He will tell me what the six things are in order of importance. It can be just making an effort to care about somebody.”

With Banks as the guest, Meyer talked about the traits necessary in picking players for a baseball team.

“You don’t want a player who whines, complains or makes excuses,” Meyer said. “John Wooden, one of the greatest basketball coaches said, `it is O.K. to make a mistake’.  Just don’t make the mistake of quitting. Don’t ever quit.”

He stressed that happiness starts when selfishness ends. He talked about the need to hustle, to back people up when needed. He talked about the importance of doing everything your team needs to have a chance to win.

Most of all he talked about playing a game because you love it and contrasted that with doing a job because you love it.

“Derek Jeter (New York Yankees) plays for the love of the game,” Meyer said. “If you don’t do something you love you are going to be a miserable person.”

In a basketball reference he closed with what he called his “Final Four”.

“I see a lot of money and expensive places and wonder if people are happy with what they have,” Meyer said. “Enjoy the good things. Be happy in your work.

“Work is a blessing from God. If you are through working then you have quit. It is over. The Bible doesn’t expect us to retire. We are to keep working for the Lord. The way you die will sum up the way you lived.”

He added that whatever you do to be joyful because that that is the only way you are going to make it in life. He added the need to pray unceasingly.

“Be concerned with people,” Meyer said. “Put them on a list.”

Third he stressed the importance of giving thanks in all circumstances and situations.

“I am so thankful because I am reaching more people now than when I was coaching,” he said.

Last, don’t put yourself in a position where anybody “quenches the spirit in you”.

“We all have a spirit,” Meyer said. “Don’t let anyone take your spirit from you.

“Find out what your gift is. Give your gifts away. Gifts don’t do anybody any good if you keep them hid in a closet.”

Meyer hasn’t hidden his gifts. Not even a car accident that required eight surgeries, including the amputation of his left leg below the knee, nor a diagnosis of cancer can keep him from speaking engagements across the country. Just recently he met with all of the instructors in the Atlanta Braves system.

Philip Hutcheson, Lipscomb director of athletics and a former player for Meyer, compared Meyer’s career and life to that of Glen Holland, the leader character in the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” starring Richard Dreyfuss. In the movie Holland is striving to write a piece of music that will be known worldwide and remembered long after he is gone. He works as a teacher in a high school during the day. He never completes the piece of music but at the end of his career he realizes the effect he has had on his students, fellow teachers and others is his legacy.

“That was Mr. Holland’s opus,” Hutcheson said. “Coach Meyer has done a lot more than Mr. Holland did in the movie.

“Anybody you talk to about basketball, or in other sports as well, knows Coach Meyer by name and reputation. With all his great  accomplishments he can also look at all of the players he has coached, all the players who have attended his camps and the coaches he has taught are putting into practice all of his lessons. They are spreading his lessons and they will go on and on. That is his opus.”

Byers Award winners

Hutcheson also announced the winners of the James R. Byers Award, given annually to the male and female athletes who have displayed outstanding Christian leadership and shown academic and athletic excellence. It is the highest honor an active Lipscomb University athlete can receive.

Track standout Tucker Peabody won as the men’s athlete.

Cross country and track star Tessa Hoefle and volleyball player Caitlin “Dot” Dotson were both presented the award as top female athlete.

It's the first time two women have won the award since 2007.