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How Lucky You Can Be - The Story of Coach Don Meyer

Last summer we heard that Coach Don Meyer was coming to Midland to speak at a fundraiser.  Not only was he the basketball coach when we were at Lipscomb, but he's also "...the winningest men's basketball coach whose career has included at least one stint with an NCAA member school."  We made plans to attend.

Here's video of Meyer winning an Espy:

As the day of the event approached, we realized that we didn't have our tickets.  We contacted the community center who told us that they had mailed them.  I remembered receiving a receipt in the mail but didn't see the tickets in the large envelope.  A few days later I received an email.  Someone in another state had found the tickets on the floor, Googled the event, and realized that they must have fallen out of the envelope I had sent her.  I had reused the envelope to mail a book, and the tickets went along for a ride.  She kindly mailed the tickets back just in time.

mbatixIn the course of trying to figure out what happened to the tickets, Lisa talked to Ryan and Bob at the community center quite a bit.  She told him about the special memories we have of John Pierce setting the all-time scoring record.  Lisa had an astronomy lab that night, and the instructor wasn't keen on letting the students out early to go to the game.  When she got out of class, she ran across campus to get to the game...arriving just in time to see Pierce set the record.  I remember  them stopping the game after the record-setting basket, and Pierce threw the ball to his dad up in the stands as a tribute to him.

Meyer's talk at the fundraiser was quite enjoyable.  He talked about faith and family...integrity and hard work.  He told a bunch of jokes too (more about that in a separate post).  He had some advice for parents: don't critique your kids after the game...leave that to the coach...your kids don't want to hear that from you.

When we talked to Meyer afterward, we could tell that Bob or Ryan had mentioned us to him as he reminisced with us about Pierce.  Here's a photo we took together...


howlucky Over Christmas I read "How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer" by Buster Olney.

Early on in the book Olney glosses over the Meyer/Lipscomb split: "a disagreement on principle with the administration."  I was worried that would be all it said on the subject, but later in the book it was addressed with some detail: the late nineties, the administration began considering a move to Division I-A - a switch that Meyer vehemently opposed.

He believed that the university would have extraordinary difficulty raising the funds needed year after year to meet the costs of travel, as well as expense of adding the sports programs required to join a new conference.  He felt, too, that Lipscomb - a church-affiliated school squeezed among the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and other Division I programs in the state of Tennessee - would have difficulty luring the level of student-athletes needed to have a strong program.  Lipscomb contended annually for NAIA championships, but at Division I, Meyer believed, the team might have trouble continuing that tradition.  He felt that Lipscomb should have more appreciation for the strong programs it already had.

In the end he resigned, feeling betrayed that the university made the decision without what he considered to be adequate deliberation.  It was nice to hear how some healing of the relationship between Lipscomb and Meyer was triggered by Philip Hutcheson taking the AD job at Lipscomb.  I also didn't know that, after resigning from Lipscomb, Meyer tried and failed to get the coaching job at Pepperdine.  It's a shame that didn't work out.

It was interesting to see how Lipscomb's unique environment was described in the book.  For example:

David Lipscomb College was affiliated with the Meyers' church, the Church of Christ, and Lipscomb operated under a strict code of conduct, as if there were additional commandments beyond the first ten.

and about how Don's wife felt upon leaving Lipscomb:

[Carmen] felt liberated, in part, by the move.  When they were at Lipscomb, they could not have gone out to a restaurant and had a glass of wine, because the school's religious doctrine was so strict.

The book was quite frank about many of the Meyer family struggles...that the relationship between Don and his wife was quite strained before the accident, that both of his daughters got pregnant out of wedlock during the freshman years in college, etc.  The one subject that I noticed as conspicuously left (mostly) unexamined was Jerry Meyers' (Don's son) dismissal from the team:

Before Jerry Meyer's senior season, he had violated team rules and Don Meyer kicked him off the team...

I was at Lipscomb at the time and heard rumors about what precipitated Jerry's dismissal.  Given that the book was so transparent in discussion of so many other aspects of the Meyer family, Olney's reticence on this subject seemed odd.

Olney does a good job detailing many of the eccentricities that made Meyer the unique character that he is: his fondness for Captain D's, his humor, that he loved listening to Rush Limbaugh on long drives during recruiting trips, etc.  It's clear that growing up on a farm with a hardnosed father had a profound influence on his work ethic and parenting style.  (As a related aside, I found this anecdote to be quite remarkable and sad: once, when the pigs escaped from their pen, his dad kicked him "over and over" when he didn't figure out a way to contain them.)

Meyer is an interesting guy, and his story is quite inspiring.  I especially enjoyed the book given my connection to Lipscomb and time there during part of Meyers tenure.

Here are some of the handouts I picked up when we went to hear Meyer speak.  I'll reproduce some of the jokes he told in a separate post.

Stop and Think

  1. Is this a risk I can afford to take?
  2. How will this affect my future?
  3. How will this affect my family?
  4. How will this affect my teammates and coaches?

Coaches and Players with Great Team Attitudes

  1. Listen to each other.
  2. Are courteous to each other.
  3. Show concern for each other.
  4. Help each other out - share the load.
  5. Say what they feel, but watch how they say it.
  6. Don’t put each other down.
  7. Praise each other.
  8. Don’t talk behind each other’s back.
  9. Celebrate success.
  10. Treat everyone’s opinion as important.
  11. Treat mistakes as learning experiences.


  • The Fruit of Silence is PRAYER
  • The Fruit of Prayer is FAITH
  • The Fruit of Faith is LOVE
  • The Fruit of Love is SERVICE

The 2nd Ten Commandments

  1. Thou shall not worry; for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.
  2. Thou shall not be fearful; for most things we fear never come to pass.
  3. Thou shall not cross bridges before you come to them; for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.
  4. Thou shall face each problem as it comes; you can only handle one at a time anyway.
  5. Thou shall not take problems to bed with you; for they make very poor bedfellows.
  6. Thou shall not borrow other people’s problems; they can better care for them then you can.
  7. Thou shall not try to relive yesterday for good or ill, it is forever gone; concentrate on what is happening in your life and be happy now.
  8. Thou shall be a good listener; for only when you listen do you hear different ideas from your own.
  9. Thou shall not become “bogged down” by frustration; for 90% of it is rotted in self-pity and will only interfere with positive actions.
  10. Thou shall count thy blessings; never overlooking the small ones, for a lot of small blessings add up to a big one.

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