Legacy of Achievement: Hall of Fame Inductee Don Meyer
Don Meyer was born in Wayne, Nebraska and was raised on a small farm. It was there that he learned the value of hard work and integrity from the example set by his parents. Both parents were very sports-minded and family vacations consisted of going to baseball games and watching their children compete.
Don participated in basketball, baseball, and football during his high school years. He was recruited to play both basketball and baseball at the University of Northern Colorado, where he is a member of their athletic Hall of Fame. He concluded his basketball career as a senior receiving NABC All-American honors. His baseball team fell short of a trip to the College World Series in 1965 after being defeated by the eventual national champion, Arizona State University. He concluded his baseball career with a 22-2 pitching record over three seasons of varsity baseball.
After receiving his undergraduate degree, Don served as a graduate assistant in the baseball program at UNC while attaining a Master’s degree. He then taught and served as assistant basketball coach and head baseball coach at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado for two years. Don then moved on to the University of Utah where he earned a Ph.D. degree while working as a graduate assistant in the basketball program.
In 1972, Coach Meyer accepted a position at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota as head basketball and head baseball coach. In his third season at Hamline, the basketball team reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA Division III men’s national tournament.
In 1975, Coach Meyer was named the head basketball coach at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. In his 24 year career at Lipscomb, his teams compiled a 665-179 record. Lipscomb teams attended 13 NAIA National Tournaments, winning the national title in 1986. They were involved in three Final Fours and two Elite Eight appearances. Two of the Lipscomb teams ended their seasons ranked #1, and the 1989-90 Bisons set a national record by winning 41 games. The two leading career scorers in college basketball both played at Lipscomb under Coach Meyer.
In August of 1999, Coach Meyer assumed the position of head basketball coach at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. During his eleven year tenure at NSU, the Wolves won 221 games. They enjoyed seven consecutive 20 or more win seasons. They led the nation in attendance four times, setting a school record for attendance of 71,024 for 15 games during the 2008-09 season. The Wolves competed in five NCAA men’s basketball national tournaments.
On January 10, 2009, NSU’s victory over the University of Mary provided Coach Meyer with his 903rd win and the top spot on the NCAA men’s basketball career victories chart. Due to health reasons, Coach Meyer retired at the end of the 2009-10 season with a record of 923 wins and 324 losses. In his 38 years as a head basketball coach, only one player who completed his eligibility in the program did not graduate.
Coach Meyer has taught at basketball clinics in almost every state in the USA and has done several clinics overseas. For nineteen years, the Don Meyer Coaching Academy was one of the most popular opportunities for coaches to learn how to teach young people the game of basketball and life. Hall of Famers such as John Wooden, Pat Summitt, and Morgan Wootten were guest lecturers at the Academy along with many other nationally prominent coaches. Coach Meyer produced a 30 DVD series entitled Building a Championship Program. It is the highest selling series of its kind for basketball coaches at every level. He is the author of several books to help coaches and players in teaching and playing the game. Coach Meyer credits all of his players for their ability to demonstrate the fundamentals of the game properly and quickly for the success of the Academy, DVD’s, and books.
One of Coach Meyer’s favorite times was conducting summer basketball camps for young boys and girls. His players learned to teach the game in camp, deal with the problems and the need for discipline that young people face, and serve as role models. It was a great learning experience for all the campers, parents, and coaches who were involved in the camps. While at Lipscomb University, the basketball camps were the largest in the country, and at NSU they were the largest in the upper central region.
In the fall of 2008, Coach Meyer was involved in a life-threatening car accident which resulted in the amputation of one leg and the subsequent diagnosis of inoperable cancer. He coached for two more years before his health would not permit him to coach any longer.
Coach Meyer has received recognition by being named to numerous Halls of Fame and has had the basketball courts at Northern State University and Lipscomb University named in his honor. He has received many national awards including the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award at the 2009 ESPY Awards, the John Wooden Award at the 2010 Final Four, the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 Hall of Fame Inductions, and the 2012 James Naismith Outstanding Contribution to Men’s Basketball Award. Coach Meyer is the subject of a book entitled How Lucky You Can Be written by Buster Olney of ESPN. Production is beginning for a movie about Coach Meyer’s life.
Coach Meyer is presently a Regents Distinguished Professor at Northern State University and serves as n Assistant to President James Smith. He is in great demand as a motivational speaker and specializes in teaching his philosophy of servant leadership to schools, athletic teams, church groups, and businesses.
Don and Carmen Meyer have been married for 45 years and are proud to have parented three children, Jerry, Brooke, and Brittney. They, in turn, have given Don and Carmen eight grandchildren to enjoy.