EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story appeared in The Post-Journal in May 2010, about a month before Don Meyer, who retired that year as the all-time leader in coaching wins (923) in NCAA men's basketball history, was the guest speaker at the Southwestern Central School commencement. Meyer, a friend and mentor of SWCS teacher Mark Sleggs, passed away on Sunday at 69.
By Scott Kindberg
Don Meyer, who retired in 2010 as the all-time leader in coaching wins (923) in NCAA men’s basketball history, talks during a coaching clinic at Southwestern Central School in June 2010.
P-J file photo
by Scott Kindberg
The number of e-mailed comments at the end of an ESPN.com story on a guy by the name of Don Meyer stands at 53.
They come from readers with user names like crackalacka44, souixasideblonde, SoFastSoNumb and boneyheel.
But they're not afraid to heap praise on Meyer, who retired earlier this year as the all-time leader in coaching wins (923) in NCAA men's basketball history.
Following is a small sampling of their reverence:
Here's to a great coach, who somehow found a way to be an even better man.
Great coach .... greater man. Good luck Mr. Meyer. They should give you the keys to the city.
See MEYER, Page B2
I entered that camp as a boy. Three days later, I had taken huge steps toward becoming a man.
Mark Sleggs, a teacher and coach at Southwestern Central School, received confirmation a couple of months ago that Meyer, his longtime mentor and friend, would be the commencement speaker at Southwestern's graduation ceremony on June 25 at the Reg Lenna Civic Center.
''I was just really excited,'' he said. ''I was just beaming. Then my mind started racing with all the things I wanted to do when he was here.''
Call it a 48-hour fastbreak.
''He does more in a day than some of us could ever hope to do in a week,'' marveled Sleggs.
Meyer's June 25 itinerary includes talking to the SWCS faculty and administration about teaching philosophy; meeting with the school's coaches; and addressing the graduates and their families. On June 26, he'll conduct an eight-hour basketball clinic at the school, talking about everything from developing perimeter and post players to defending and utilizing the 3-point shot.
''From the time he touches down to when he leaves, it's going to be more like 42 hours,'' Sleggs said. ''It's going to be a challenge for me to get him to speak to as many people as I can."
Sleggs, whose relationship with Meyer dates back 25 years, isn't only concerned that the former Northern State (S.D.), Lipscomb (Tenn.) and Hamline (Minn.) coach share a few Xs and Os, but he'd also like area residents to take something even more meaningful from his visit.
''He's been a real blessing and a gift to me,'' said Sleggs, who has been a counselor at Meyer's summer camps since the mid-1980s. ''I keep thinking about graduation night and, with the help of the school, I feel his message and him being here will be a blessing and a gift, too. ... I feel he has a message and has something he can give to a lot of people here.''
The Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles is jammed with celebrities from the world of sports and entertainment. It's July 2009 and ESPN is hosting its annual ESPY Awards, a program in which athletes and teams are recognized for excellence in performance.
But as actor Rob Lowe approaches the podium, he's not about to introduce a world championship team or league most valuable player. Instead, he's there to tell the story of Meyer, the recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.
After a two- or three-minute video presentation, the winningest men's coach of all time, whose personal friends include icons like John Wooden, Bob Knight, Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski, appears on stage. He does with the aid of a walker.
It's been 10 months - September 2008 - since he fell asleep at the wheel and was hit head-on by a tractor trailer on a South Dakota highway. The crash left him with broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, a torn diaphragm and a shattered left leg, which, 14 days later, was amputated below the knee.
Oh, and did we mention the inoperable cancer doctors found in his liver and intestines while treating him for his injuries?
The audience, which includes, among others, Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens, Danica Patrick and Jim Boeheim, gives Meyer a standing ovation.
Reading from a prepared text, the 65-year-old tells of his visit with Wooden the day before and how he was given a card. On it are words of advice that Wooden received from his father upon his grade-school graduation.
"Don't whine, don't complain and don't make excuses,'' Meyer says. "Every time I've gone to rehab workouts those three statements have slapped me in the face as I glance around the room and see that everyone doing rehab with me has it much tougher than I do.''
Wearing a dark suit instead of his trademark khaki pants, collared shirt and baseball cap, Meyer isn't afraid to expound on Wooden's pearls of wisdom.
"The 'F' word has been, unfortunately, used highly in our society and in the world today and we use it in our basketball program also,'' Meyer said. ''Our 'F' words are faith, family and friends. Faith that God has a reason for sparing my life at this time so that I can try and serve others for a few more years.
Meyer then talks about how his family, especially his wife, Carmen, has helped in his recovery and how his friends, including his current team, his former players and his coaching colleagues throughout the country, have been so supportive.
"I've learned from this odyssey," he says, "that peace is not the absence of troubles, trials and torment, but calm in the midst of them is.''
Upon completion of his six-minute address, he turns and leaves the stage to another standing ovation.
Sleggs, who will introduce Meyer prior to the commencement address next month, says he has been working on his mentor's visit a "little each day."
"I've said it a million times that I've tried to reflect him in just about everything I've done - how I've conducted myself, the type of teacher, friend and father I am and in anything I do,'' Sleggs said. "People say, 'You're really good at this or good at that,' and I try and either say to them, or say internally, 'That's you, Don.'''