Let the record show that Don Meyer won a total of 923 basketball games at three colleges, including 665 victories at Lipscomb in 1975-99.
Let the record show that is only a small part of his legacy.
Meyer considered himself more of a teacher than a coach. He treated the basketball court as a classroom. But it wasn't his only classroom. You didn't have to be one of his players to feel Meyer's influence.
A conversation with Meyer usually branched out far beyond the game of basketball. He often offered sheet after sheet of motivational ideas and self-help tips. He was meticulous about time management, explaining that he was always looking for ways to squeeze more time out of every day.
He was a great coach but a greater inspiration. Few people could cope with the one-two combination of a near-fatal auto accident in September 2008 that cost part of his left leg, which was amputated below the knee, and the diagnosis of inoperable cancer. But Meyer did, returning to coaching.
There was never a pity party. Meyer and his family concluded that the wreck had served a purpose. Otherwise, the cancer would not have been detected. Fortified with the news, he got back to work, reckoning — correctly — that his ability to deal with adversity would provide motivation for others.
Meyer died today at his home in Aberdeen, S.D. He was 69.
"Maybe there's somebody out there with the same challenges I'm facing," he said during an interview. "If I can help that person cope with the situation, I'm serving a purpose."
He eventually was forced to retire from coaching in 2010 as a concession to the impact of the injuries and the ravages of cancer. Reflecting on his decision, Meyer's self-deprecating wit surfaced when he suggested his retirement was for the best since he was having difficulty recruiting players.
"Besides, when you've got one leg and you've got cancer and you're as ugly as I am, you figure there's a lot of negative recruiting going on," he said.
If you're ever feeling sorry for yourself, I encourage you to punch up the YouTube recording of Meyer's speech at the 2009 ESPYs when he was presented the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. His tribute to the importance of faith, family and friends ranks high on Meyer's list of achievements. His words still resonate.
Meyer's impact on the Nashville sports landscape is profound. In 24 seasons at Lipscomb, his teams went 665-179 and won the NAIA national championship in 1986.
His teams played with passion and precision. He was a stickler for preparation. Lipscomb's pre-game warm-ups included a drill where players worked on establishing defensive position and taking a charge — at full speed. Opposing players sometimes stopped their own warm-ups to watch as Meyer's players were knocked to the floor.
In the days before the NHL and NFL came to town, Lipscomb-Belmont basketball games were among the biggest events on the sports calendar. In 1990, Belmont agreed to give up a home game in order to play the Bisons at Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym. The game sold out, drawing an NAIA-record 15,399 fans for Lipscomb's 124-105 win.
Meyer also conducted a series of popular summertime basketball camps. He was hands-on, planning every drill and overseeing things from morning till night. Through those camps, he touched literally thousands of young lives over the years.
Former Lipscomb coach Don Meyer, left, talks with his team before a practice in 1992.(Photo: File / The Tennessean)
He was as quirky as he was successful. Meyer sometimes conducted interviews over lunch at Captain D's. Why Captain D's? The coupons. He would meet you at the door with a stack of coupons in his hand. He said he had a drawer full of discount Captain D's coupons at his office.
"Good food and a good deal," he would say.
Such meetings were one part interview, nine parts lecture. Meyer could talk basketball for hours but he tended to branch out into other areas. He had strong opinions and a desire to express them.
Meyer resigned at Lipscomb in May 1999 in response to the school's jump from the NAIA to NCAA Division I and the decision-making process that led to the move. At the time of his resignation, Meyer said: "I simply am not on the same page with what the administration is doing."
That precipitated a move to Northern State University, an NCAA Division II program in Aberdeen, S.D., where he overcame the effects of the car wreck and cancer diagnosis to conclude his coaching career on his own terms.
Coach Don Meyer tries to negotiate a ramp during rehab after a life-threatening car crash and cancer diagnosi in 2008.(Photo: Doug Dreyer / AP)
For Meyer, it was always about the journey, not the destination. Many others in his chosen profession are driven by the goal of moving up the coaching ladder, jumping at every job at a bigger program with a higher profile.
Not Meyer. In January 2008, he recorded his 880th win as a college coach, passing Dean Smith, of the University of North Carolina, on the all-time victory list. The milestone came in front of 450 fans at Dorman Gym on the campus of Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa.
Asked afterward about the significance of the landmark win that moved him ahead of a coach he greatly admired, Meyer said:
"It beats losing."
The man was a winner. And he'll be missed.
Reach David Climer at 615-259-8020 and on Twitter @DavidClimer.