Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This morning I was going through some old articles and came across one from Buster Olney on Coach Don Meyer.  It hit me because Coach Meyer and his wonderful wife Carmen have just spent four days at our home.  Greg Brown, one of the many under Coach Meyer's coaching tree flew in from Nashville to stay with us.  Coach kept us up each evening -- either teaching us or making us laugh -- until the early hours of the morning.  It brought me back to some of my stays at Coach's house which always ended with late hours of basketball and stories.

Buster paints an amazing portrait in this short story about Coach Meyer during his final season of coaching at Northern University in which he shares his home with some of his former players.  You can read the entire article here -- but this is the part that struck me the most as to what Coach Meyer stands for -- his players:

On Jan. 17, 2009, the week after Meyer surpassed Knight's career mark for victories, Northern State named the court at Wachs Arena after him, and Meyer's graceful and precise signature was painted into the floor. About a half-dozen of his former players made the midwinter trek to South Dakota. It was a ceremony that signified permanence, and some of his former players wanted to make sure they were there.

Four hours before the game, Meyer walked into his office, and there was Hutcheson and Tomlinson, the latter with his feet up on the desk.

"Your worries are over!" Tomlinson said. "The cavalry is here!"

Meyer laughed, leaned over from his walker and whacked Tomlinson on the side.

After the game, Meyer's former players made the trek back to his house, to hang out in the living room, and naturally Meyer first asked them for an honest assessment of what they had seen in the Northern State team that night. But then he began reminiscing, telling the story of a confrontation in a David Lipscomb game from years before. Meyer chuckled about how the opposing coach had gone berserk during the game, inexplicably.

There was a silence, and then Hutcheson said, "Coach Meyer, I need to tell you what was really going on there."

And with a 20-year statute of limitations apparently over, Hutcheson told him that the reason the other coach had reacted so crazily was that a player on the Lipscomb team had made a rather inappropriate gesture.

Meyer was stunned by this revision of history.

"Well, crap," he said, grinning. "What other stories do we need to clean up?"

So for the next couple of hours, his ex-players drew up the curtain on their past and revised their shared history, all of them laughing. It was nice, Hutcheson thought, to be around his former coach when he didn't seem to be in too much pain.

At 2 a.m., they broke for some food that Meyer's wife and daughter had made, and a couple of the former players took off to drive to Omaha to catch a plane.

But Tomlinson, Hutcheson and Rob Browne stayed awake, lying on air mattresses on the floor at the feet of Meyer, who was in a lounge chair. Brooke looked at her father and thought she hadn't seen him that happy since his accident. If God meant to take him, she thought, this would be the best time.

It wasn't until 3:30, after more storytelling, that Meyer began to doze off. Browne saw Carmen Meyer, Don's wife, walk into the living room and reach down to touch his shoulder; he seemed to be dozing.

"Don, it's time to go to bed," she said.

"No, no," he said. "I want to stay with my boys."

She pulled the blanket up to his shoulders, and he fell asleep.

Meyer has been worn out in this, his last season, by the demands of his work, the demands he has placed upon himself. He mentioned in January that he couldn't wait to sit and watch the snow fall outside. He's earned that opportunity, after teaching so many others the value of process over product.

His time as a basketball coach -- which he has cherished -- will soon end. His coaching endures.

NOTE: Buster has also written an incredible book on Coach Meyer, "How Lucky Can I Be" that is well worth the read.