Legendary coach Don Meyer has not walked the basketball court at Lipscomb University since the 1999-2000 season.
His name is painted on the court at Allen Arena. But his influence at Lipscomb is stronger than just a logo on a court. He has been a mentor for many of the athletic teams at Lipscomb. He coached the men’s team at Lipscomb, but his influence over the Lipscomb Lady Bisons’ basketball team is strongly felt through generations.
Head coach Greg Brown and assistant coach John Wild both were student assistants under Meyer at Lipscomb. Wild also played for Meyer. Assistant coach Cara Cahak attended Meyer’s camps.
Rick Bowers, the father of first-year Lipscomb assistant coach Anna Bowers, played for Meyer and is one of the top high school coaches in the state of Tennessee. Forward Chandler Cooper’s father, Al, was on Meyer’s teams as well. Alan Banks, the father of forward Alex Banks, also played for Meyer.
It’s a world of notebooks, picking up trash, treating people right and playing tough, fundamental basketball. Meyer’s coaching style and maxims of how to play basketball, as well as how to have a well-lived life, have been handed down from generation to generation.
Meyer has been a frequent visitor to practice sessions for the Lady Bisons. He has also met with the team on several occasions to talk about basketball techniques and life lessons.
“The challenge as a coach is to see the legacy continue,” Brown said. “It is great to see those who did not know him as a coach embrace him. He says we are his team.”
Brown has also worked as an assistant for former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and with Joi Williams at UCF.
“You are a sum total of your unique experiences,” Brown said. “After working at UT and UCF to come back to where it all started at Lipscomb was a no brainer.”
Brown feels the presence of Meyer on a daily basis.
“It is hard to go somewhere and not find someone who went to coach Meyer’s camps or a high coach who watched coach Meyer’s DVDs,” Brown said. “It lends credibility to what we are doing.
“I am not coach Meyer. I am not Pat. I am not Joi Williams. But I take all of those things they stand for culture-wise like simplicity of play, playing tough and playing hard to find the types of players and build the type of environment that we want.”
For Brown the coaching philosophy of Meyer did not require a great amount of adjustment.
“Growing up I took notes watching Boston Celtics games,” Brown said. “I thought I was going to be the next Larry Bird. Between him and Kevin McHale I was going to morph my game into theirs.
“When I got here as a student the notebooks were already part of my culture. After I met coach Meyer and worked camps I saw that he did all of that. The analytical side just appealed to me.”
Brown is in his second season as the head coach for the Lady Bisons. He believes, like Meyer, that it is about what the team will be doing the next year, the next five years or the next 10 years.
“It is all about the toughness of play, intensity and being servant leaders,” Brown said. “It is about having a team attitude centered on the pursuit of excellence.
“The main thing is teaching and developing skills. You are not building a team, you are building a program. That approach sometimes makes it difficult because you don’t always get the results you want right away. But you are encouraged when you see a lot of growth. It is a process.”
More than the game
Anna Bowers didn’t realize growing up that many of the things her father said were based on what coach Meyer had told him.
But as she has matured she has seen the strong connection between Meyer and her father.
“Where he learned the game, and how he learned how to be the coach that he is, comes from coach Meyer,” Anna said. “He has developed a lot of his own stuff, but it is very clear the correlation between coach Meyer and Dad through their coaching styles and what they demand from people.
“They are not just coaching to coach. It is not just about the game. It is about the players and developing character. That is one of the things that is most important in coach Meyer’s philosophy. I’ve seen it with coach Brown and my Dad. The game is the game. That is our job but it is all about the kids and it is a lot deeper than playing basketball.”
Anna grew up with coach Meyer being a frequent visitor at her house. Chandler did not meet coach Meyer in person until she came to Lipscomb this year to play basketball.
“I was very much anxious to meet him,” Cooper said. “I had heard about him all of my life. He was what I expected. The similarities between my Dad and him, how both of them interact with and talk to people, were so eerie to see.
“I had heard about coach Meyer my whole life. My Dad had respect for him. When I heard him talk for the first time here I was choked up. I was proud. I represent Lipscomb, but I represent a foundation that he has built. I want to uphold that the best I can and keep it going to make sure people know where I learned this.”
Chandler transferred from Florida after her freshman season. The familiarity with coach Meyer’s style, and the influence he has had on Brown, made the transition simpler for her.
“It made it easier to pick up on the concepts here,” Chandler said. “It was the same way I was coached growing up – the same terminology and the same way you are expected to play. “
A comfortable familiarity
Chandler and Alex often know what Brown is going to say before he says it.
“It is really funny listening to coach Brown say things,” Chandler said. “In my mind I think, `my Dad used to say that’. In theory it is all coach Meyerisms.
“I think it is so cool. It all comes back to coach Meyer. Alex and I have talked about how cool it is to be part of the second generation.”
Alex vividly recalls her first in-person encounter with Meyer. Her father let her skip school to come to Lipscomb for a book signing with Meyer and ESPN sports reporter and analyst Buster Olney, who authored a book on Meyer entitled “How Lucky You Can Be”.
“I had learned from coach Meyer literally my entire life,” Alex said. “It was awesome to meet him for the first time. I started tearing up.
“I learned almost pretty much everything from him about basketball and life. I remember when I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go to college. From memory coach Meyer wrote four or five Bible verses in my book when he signed it. He told me to go read them. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.”
Ironically, the saying of coach Meyer that Alex remembers the most has nothing to do with how to play basketball.
“The biggest one is pick up the trash,” Alex said. “We should leave a place prettier than it was when we got there.”
Alex and Chandler are always trying to reach the expectations that have been set by coach Meyer’s philosophy.
“I feel like it is how I have been raised,” Alex said. “There are standards like doing the little things and being nice to everyone. It isn’t pressure to do it, but it is expected.
“Whenever he speaks to us we are hanging on every single word he says. He has been through so much. He is so wise. We are all ears. We are all listening.”