Former Northern State University coach Don Meyer is one of the nation’s most successful basketball coaches of all time.
Meyer made college basketball history in 2009, surpassing Bobby Knight as the career victory leader. For two years, from 2009-2011, Meyer held the record for most wins for a men’s college basketball coach. Meyer retired in 2010 from Northern State University with an overall win-loss record of 923-324. His most-wins record was topped a year later by another basketball great, Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Meyer’s journey to the top of the all-time career wins list took an unexpected turn in September 2008 when he was involved in a life-threatening car accident while leading a caravan of players to a team retreat. The accident resulted in the loss of part of his left leg. However, despite that set-back and an 8-week stay in the hospital, Meyer returned to the sidelines for the duration of the 2008-09 season, leading the Wolves to their second straight appearance in the Division II national tournament in March.
Earlier in the season, Meyer made NCAA men’s basketball history when he took over sole possession of the top spot of the career victories chart, passing up Bobby Knight’s mark of 902 wins in the process. Meyer claimed his 903rd career victory on Jan. 10, 2009, leading the Wolves past the University of Mary 82-62 in front of 6,654 fans.
Meyer’s difficult journey garnered national media attention throughout the season. In July, he was nominated for and awarded the Jimmy V. Award for Perseverance at the 2009 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.
Meyer led the Wolves to the program’s second best record in school history in 2007-08, going 29-4 overall and taking second place in the NSIC with a 16-2 record. The only losses for the Wolves came at the hands of eventual National Champion, Winona State. The 2007-08 season also saw Coach Meyer climb the ranks of the NCAA all-time wins list. On January 19, 2008, an 87-78 win over the University of Mary gave Meyer his 879th victory and put him at second place among the best coaches in basketball history. A thunderous crowd of 5,454 watched Meyer accomplish the feat at Wachs Arena, and even more looked on with the game broadcast on local television throughout the Dakotas.
Under Meyer’s direction
the Wolves had gone over the 20-win mark for seven straight years until reaching just 19 wins in 2008-09. They reached NCAA post-season play five out of the past six years and have appeared in the North Central Region Championship game twice (2008 and 2006). Meyer’s squads won four regular season or NSIC Tournament titles and finished among the top three teams in the league for seven consecutive years.
In 2004-05, Meyer surpassed 800 career wins and led the Wolves to their second straight NSIC Tournament Championship. His 800th career win came on Saturday, December 11, 2004 when the Wolves defeated Minnesota Duluth 69-50. 5,437 fans were in attendance at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen that evening to witness the milestone that has been reached by just a handful of collegiate coaches.
In his third season at Northern, Meyer guided the Wolves to the 2002 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference co-championship and earned NSIC Coach of the Year honors.
At Northern, Meyer has coached 20 all-conference performers, five all-region performers, three NSIC MVPs (Brad Hansen, Matt Hammer and Kevin Ratzsch), two NSIC Tournament MVPs (Steve Smiley & Matt Hammer) NSIC Defensive Player of the Year (Smiley) and one All-American Honorable Mention selection (Hansen).
Prior to Northern
Meyer spent 24 years coaching NAIA I David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. There, he reached the 700-win plateau faster than any other coach in the history of college basketball.
Meyer’s Lipscomb teams spent a decade winning more games than any other team in the country, averaging more than 32 wins per season for 10 years before his move to Northern. His 1989-90 team set a college basketball record with 41 wins. Meyer’s Bison teams made 13 national tournament appearances, winning the NAIA National Championship in 1986. Meyer was named NAIA National Coach of the Year in 1989 and 1990, and was selected to the NAIA Hall of Fame at the age of 47. He also assisted coach Mike Krzyzewski with the Olympic Sports Festival South Team in 1983.
Using a motion offense similar to Northern’s, Meyer’s teams led the nation in scoring in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1995, averaging more than 100 points per game in each of those seasons. Meyer also coached college basketball’s first and second all-time leading scorers, former Lipscomb Bisons John Pierce and Philip Hutcheson. Meyer’s son, Jerry, broke college basketball’s career assist record while playing for his father at Lipscomb. Bison Marcus Bodie holds the single-season and career record for steals in college basketball. Bison Andy McQueen holds the career 3-point field goals made record. Meyer’s system has produced three National Players of the Year and 22 All-Americans. Two of his Lipscomb players have received the GTE Academic Excellence Award for basketball.
Meyer’s name is respected nationally in the coaching ranks. In nine years, well over 10,000 coaches from all over the nation have attended the Don Meyer Coaches Academy. Meyer’s featured speakers read as a who’s who in the coaching ranks. In 2001, he brought the Academy to Aberdeen with Tennessee’s Pat Summitt as keynote speaker. In 2002, John Wooden and Dick Bennet were featured in the academy. Tubby Smith and Jerry Krause will speak at the 2006 Academy.
Meyer also produces instructional books and a 30-tape series “Building a Championship Program” that has helped coaches at every level from high school to the NBA. Programs using the tapes include perennial Division I powerhouses Duke, Kansas, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and NBA franchises like the Utah Jazz and Seattle Supersonics. He also built the summer Bison Basketball Camps into the most successful players’ camp in the country, drawing 4,500 campers annually. During the past year, Meyer’s coaches’ and players’ camps have been huge successes in Aberdeen.
Meyer has also given motivational speeches throughout the country and published numerous articles for many coaching publications.
A native of Wayne, Nebraska
Meyer had aspirations as a youngster of one day being a major league baseball player. Not only was he an outstanding baseball player, but he also excelled in the game that would become his life – basketball. Meyer attended the University of Northern Colorado and graduated in 1967. While at UNC, Meyer played baseball and basketball. On the baseball field, he posted a career pitching record of 22-2 and caught the attention of pro scouts. On the basketball court, Meyer led UNC to the 1966 NCAA college division playoffs and was named NCAA All-American. Meyer began his coaching career at Western State (Colo.) where he was an assistant from 1968-70. From there he went to the University of Utah where he served as an assistant basketball coach from 1970-72 and earned a Ph.D.
Meyer received his first head coaching position in 1972 when he was hired by Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. He spent three seasons there where he had a record of 37-41. Meyer took a program at Hamline that had a 30-177 record the six previous seasons. After a 5-20 record in his first season, Meyer turned things around, recording 16-10 and 16-11 records the next two seasons. Hamline reached the NCAA Division III Elite Eight in Meyer’s last year with the institution. In the early years at Lipscomb, Meyer used the rules of the game to get the most talent out of his players. Often playing opponents who were bigger, stronger and faster than the Lipscomb athletes, Meyer’s slow-down fundamental-style won many games. As the game and rules changed over the years, Meyer changed with the times to develop in his Lipscomb teams the most explosive offense in the nation.
In 1982 the Bison made it to the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City for the first time. Soon after, the Bison became a permanent fixture at the national tournament.