Legendary Basketball Coach Don Meyer Passes Away at Age 69

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMay 18, 2014

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2010 file photo, Northern State coach Don Meyer addresses the media after an NCAA college basketball game in Aberdeen, S.D., where he announced he would be retiring. Meyer's family said in a statement Tuesday, May 13, 2014, that his health has been declining over the past several months, and after a three-day stay at a hospital with a feeding tube he is now at home in Aberdeen in hospice care. Meyer retired from coaching in 2010 with a then-NCAA record 923 victories in 38 seasons with Northern State, Lipscomb University in Tennessee and Hamline University in Minnesota. The native of Wayne, Neb., is 69 years old. (AP Photo/Doug Dreyer, File)
Doug Dreyer/Associated Press

Don Meyer, who finished his NCAA men's basketball coaching career with 923 victories, passed away Sunday at his home in Aberdeen, South Dakota, at the age of 69.    

The Associated Press' Dave Kolpack and Carson Walker reported the news, noting that cancer was the cause of Meyer's death. 

"He won his greatest victory and is now running again and gearing up to pitch nine innings," the Meyer family said in a statement, per the AP. "The family appreciates the outpouring of love, prayers and concern."

In the statement, Meyer's son, Jerry, discussed what it was like to play for his father at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.

"He was a tough coach to play for, very demanding physical and mentally. But that's what made him a great coach, and that's why all his players, he influenced their lives so much and produced so many coaches."

Brian Mansfield of USA Today discussed how much of an impact Meyer had on him:

The NCAA sent along its best wishes to Meyer's family:

UNLV assistant and Northern State alum Ryan Miller described how he feels about Meyer:

With 38 years of head-coaching experience, Meyer's resume alone would command respect. But the iconic coach also showed uncommon resilience and strength toward the end of his career.

A severe car accident in 2008 left Meyer critically injured, but it ultimately may have been a blessing in disguise. Doctors discovered cancer in his liver "when he had emergency surgery to remove his spleen after the accident," per Andy Katz of ESPN.com. Meyer had to have his lower left leg amputated as a result of the cancer.

That didn't stop Meyer from continuing on as a coach, however. In 2009, he went on to pass Bobby Knight for the NCAA men's basketball wins record. Meyer retired the following year, but not before making his legendary presence felt in college basketball history.

The accomplishments and heights Meyer achieved landed him a 2009 ESPY: the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.

Meyer began his career as a head coach in 1972 at Hamline University before landing at Lipscomb for the majority of his days roaming the sidelines from 1975 through 1999. He spent the remainder of his time until retirement at Northern State.

Meyer had the mark of a sensational coach in that he helped his players improve on the court and mentored them away from the hardwood, too. An intense competitiveness and will to win defines his nearly four decades as a coach, and his phenomenal results speak for themselves.

It was clear that Meyer made an indelible impression on those who encountered him. Thoughts go out to the Meyer family and those affected by his passing.