Don Meyer speaks at Mount Vernon banquetMOUNT VERNON — With a noticeable limp, he walked up to the podium. The Tom Young Community Center in Mount Vernon was infatuated with silence. Within minutes, the all-time leader in men’s basketball coaching wins had a crowd of more than 225 people laughing hysterically, fixed on every word he said. Never once did former Northern State University men’s basketball coach Don Meyer mention his 922 career wins.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
MOUNT VERNON — With a noticeable limp, he walked up to the podium.
The Tom Young Community Center in Mount Vernon was infatuated with silence.
Within minutes, the all-time leader in men’s basketball coaching wins had a crowd of more than 225 people laughing hysterically, fixed on every word he said.
Never once did former Northern State University men’s basketball coach Don Meyer mention his 922 career wins.
Instead, the topic Friday night in Mount Vernon was being a dad and being a son.
“This is a chance to reach people,” Meyer said in an interview with The Daily Republic after his speech. “It’s not like working with a kid for four or five years, but it does let you expand, and you can reach more people because you’re not coaching.”
Friday’s stop in Mount Vernon at the father-son banquet was just one of many for the ESPY Award-winning coach, who announced his retirement Feb. 22.
“I’ll be on the road all but three days in April and all but five or six in May,” he said. “Then it will lighten up a little bit, but it’s something I’m able to do, and as long as I can do it without getting too worn down, I’ll probably keep trying to do it.”
In September 2008, Meyer was leading a caravan of players and fell asleep at the wheel. He was involved in a near-fatal accident with a truck hauling 90,000 pounds of corn and lost most of his left leg. That evening, the surgeon who worked on Meyer discovered carcinoid cancer, a slow-growing form of the disease.
After coaching a season in a wheelchair, Meyer got a prosthetic leg last summer, which, along with the help of a cane, helped him walk up to the podium Friday and stand for nearly one hour, discussing his thoughts on ways to be a good father and son.
Almost one month to the day after his final game coaching at NSU, Meyer had people of all ages — from first graders to the oldest man in the room — engrossed with everything he had to say.
“He’s had a lot of life experiences,” Mount Vernon resident Dan Weiss said. “He’s gone through a lot.”
Kyle Weiss, Dan’s son, added: “That was great. You can tell he’s such a great guy if he’s willing to take time out like this. He just told me he’s going to Bismarck (N.D.) next week.”
Meyer opened the night with a joke about using his cane. He kept the mood light when he brought up kids ages first grade through fourth for a round of humor.
“What do you give an ant with an upset stomach?” he asked. “Ant-acid.”
The 38-year veteran coach’s jokes were sprinkled throughout the speech. He talked about growing up on a farm like many of the people in the crowd and eventually went into inspirational talks about superstar athletes such as Derek Jeter.
The ears in the Tom Young Community Center were the first to hear Meyer give this particular speech.
“I like small towns and small schools,” Meyer said. “You talk to different groups of people.
“I’ve never given this talk before; I sort of made it up when I got here. You pull different things together — I had written some ideas the last couple days that had come into my mind — but I didn’t really put it all together until I got here. I don’t think you can put everything on paper until you see the group and feel it.”
The laugher soon fell back into silence when Meyer was reading lyrics from the famous song by Harry Chapin, “Cat’s in the Cradle.”
He went through his memories of raising his son, talked about character and his views on how to teach a child.
“I’m always worried that I’ll talk too long,” Meyer said. “That’s always a fear, and like the little kids, I thought I’d get them to come up early and give them something to do.”
The, he steered his speech toward the sons in the room.
Attitude, effort and competitiveness were the biggest points he discussed.
The points were undoubtedly made.
“I’m definitely going to remember this stuff that he talked about forever,” Kyle Weiss said. “It’s a lot of good advice.”
Dan Weiss added: “It was very inspirational.”