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Press Photo by Dustin Monke In this file photo, Don Meyer speaks to an audience on April 17, 2012 in Lemon, South Dakota. Meyer died on Sunday after battling cancer.

Coaching legend, SD native Meyer dies at 69

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The Dickinson Press
Coaching legend, SD native Meyer dies at 69
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Don Meyer, one of the winningest men’s coaches in history, died Sunday in South Dakota of cancer. He was 69.

Meyer passed Bob Knight in 2009, just four months after recovering from a near-fatal auto accident.

Meyer went 923-324 in his 38-year coaching career, guiding his teams into the postseason 19 times.

Most of his career was spent at Lipscomb in Tennessee and Northern State in South Dakota.

Meyer died at his home in Aberdeen, S.D., at 6:52 a.m., according to family spokeswoman Brenda Dreyer.

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

Meyer retired after the 2009-10 season at Northern State after the team went 13-14. It was only his fourth losing season.

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski surpassed Meyer’s wins record in 2012 and once said Meyer did “a wonderful job of giving back to our great game,” according to Yahoo Sports.

Former Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt, the all-time win record for college basketball, once said Meyer is “truly one of the best teachers in the history of the game,” according to Yahoo Sports.

Meyer kept coaching after being critically injured in a traffic accident in September 2008. He endured several operations, which included removing his spleen, repairing cracked ribs and having his left leg amputated below the knee.

Meyer later called the accident a blessing because doctors found cancer in his liver and small intestines during the operations.

Four months later, while in a wheelchair, he became the winningest men’s coach on Jan. 10, 2009.

Meyer was honored in July 2009 with ESPN’s Jimmy V Perseverance Award, given to a sports figure who has overcome great obstacles. The award is named after former North Carolina State coach Jimmy Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993. Meyer was also awarded the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August 2010.

Meyer had other health issues in recent years. He had surgery in August 2012 for a heart pacemaker implant. That occurred after having three of his heart valves replaced with mechanical ones. He also had a hole in his heart repaired.

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