I recently finished Buster Olney’s wonderful book on former Lipscomb coach Don Meyer. I’ve always been a fan of Meyer (never met him) from the time my dad and I were talking on the phone when I lived in Brooklyn. He said, ‘there’s something really odd going on with the basketball program…i’m not sure how the team is going to do under this new guy (Meyer), but it’s going to be interesting to watch’. I followed the program from afar, and when we moved back to Nashville, I probably watched the man coach over 100 games.
He is, and was rather odd and off-putting. He has a perennial scowl and doesn’t appear friendly. He barked at his players and paced the sidelines like a chained pit-bull. He also coached basketball at a different level and was watching a different game than I (a huge college basketball fan) and many others ever notice. Underneath that scowl and bundle of eccentricity was one of the most interesting and humble men I’ve ever read about. If you get Meyer, you understand how a man can be humble but not weak, tenacious, but not addictive.
Read the book, (and check out a former Northern Dakota player’s book about Coach Meyers* as well). What the Coach weaves in an almost mystical tapestry of aphorisms and stories is that no one player on a team, no matter how incredible or how untalented is any more or less part of a team than any other player. You understand that Meyer has influenced hundreds if not thousands of young people to treat everyone as if they were the most important person in the room, no matter their so-called station in life. You read the testimonials of the men who played for Meyer and you understand that Meyer made them better people (or actually help them understand what they had inside them to be better).
You read about former player’s tragedy and how the Coach and many former teammates traveled long distances to be support their teammate. Some of the things you read make you think the man is crazy and destructive, but then you realize he’s doing what needed to be done to bring a person down to earth or just to realize how fortunate he really is.
You read about a man who lost a leg in a car wreck and then cancer was discovered when surgery was performed on the leg and how that didn’t begin to bring the man down. The book is not hagiography or idolatry, but you begin to understand a man of immense faith who didn’t just talk about doing the right thing.
I once heard him speak on what was supposed to be parenting..instead we got time management, the importance of not drinking sodas and the difference between religion and spirituality (first time I heard anyone describe the divergence so well), and how to live properly you live in the moment. What I at first thought was a rambling collection of odd (and interesting) thoughts became a brilliant lecture on parenting, not because he spoke one word about raising kids, but because he was talking about being healthy on every level. You take care of yourself, don’t squander your time, and live in the moment and you will be one heckuva parent.
I once saw the man call a timeout with two seconds left in the first half when his team was leading by 28 points. It was one of the most illogically timed time-outs ever, but like I say, the man wasn’t watching the same game as most of us. He saw something he didn’t like, and he didn’t want to wait until half-time to discuss the problem.
He wanted to win, but playing well and playing the game correctly, living life well and living it in the moment and living in a state of humility and strength were what he taught. Once you got that, winning was a brilliant side effect….good parenting was a brilliant side effect.
I really don’t have anything to add to the Vince Young saga that has dominated our city for the last couple of days. I read about Meyer’s players and how they learned to handle adversity and how to treat others, and it just makes me sad that Young didn’t have someone like Meyer at an early age to channel that incredible talent. I’m sad that concepts like team and handling adversity apparently don’t mean the same thing to Young as it does to the young men I read about in Olney’s book.
Much more importantly, I realize how I’ve squandered time, have been thoughtless and ranted and raved about my computer not operating quickly enough (among other things). I think about the anger I’ve expressed towards the people I love more than anything in the world, and I know that none of those people I’ve talked about are perfect, but how fortunate we can be, if we just see what is right before our eyes.
“Happiness begins when selfishness ends”
“A fool despises instruction”
“Do the ordinary things extra-ordinarily well”
“You can measure somebody’s character by how they treat people that can’t do them any good or can’t fight back”
*The book about playing for Meyer is ‘Playing for Coach Meyer’ by Steve Smiley
Olney’s incredible book is ‘How Lucky Can You Be’..it deserves to sell brilliantly..