Meyer to speak in South HeartGreg Pruitt’s book is full of notes and ideas he has gathered over the years.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Greg Pruitt’s book is full of notes and ideas he has gathered over the years.
Everything he has written down in his copy of “How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer” has come directly from the book’s subject.
“Every time coach calls me, I write something down,” Pruitt said. “My book is just full of things that I feel are going to help me.”
Pruitt, the head boys basketball coach of the Heart River co-op, calls the legendary basketball coach a “great inspiration,” in his life and wanted to find a way to pass Meyer’s ideas on to his team and other students at Belfield and South Heart.
What better way than to bring in the man himself.
Meyer will speak at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the South Heart High School gymnasium. The event is free and open to the public thanks to sponsorship from the South Heart and Belfield booster clubs.
The 67-year-old former men’s basketball coach at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., has been an in-demand motivational speaker since retiring from coaching in 2010 as the winningest men’s basketball coach in college history. His win total was surpassed by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski earlier last season.
Nonetheless, Meyer’s success on the basketball court isn’t what makes him an inspiration.
It’s his story of survival.
Meyer lost his left leg below the knee following a September 2008 car accident. Shortly after the accident, he learned he had liver and intestinal cancer. He has recovered from all other injuries suffered in the accident, as well as his cancer.
Today, he speaks about servant leadership, the philosophy of a leader being responsible for one’s followers and peers.
“I think that the key, the reason I’m so excited, is that coach Meyer has always taught me to do something good for somebody, to be a servant leader,” Pruitt said. “That’s what he preaches. Be a servant leader. That’s the way he wanted to teach his kids in his program when he had them. That’s the way I want to teach the kids in my program. I figured what a better way to be a servant leader than to bring in coach Meyer and to open it up to the community.”
DSU head women’s basketball coach Caleb Harrison and head men’s basketball coach Ty Orton plan to bus some of their players to South Heart for the speech.
Like Pruitt, Harrison said the foundations of the program he is trying to build as he enters his first season with the Blue Hawks come directly from Meyer. Harrison was a former assistant coach at Lambuth (Tenn.) University under current Dakota State women’s basketball coach Joe Reints, who did his graduate assistant work under Meyer at Northern State.
Harrison said he and Reints often worked with Meyer when he was running his college team camps.
“That was a real eye-opener for me, just to see how coach Meyer teaches the game and how he focuses on the fundamentals,” Harrison said. “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve seen at keeping things simple. That’s helped me a lot as a coach, especially as a young coach — focusing on the basic things, the fundamentals of the game, and realizing those things allow a team to be successful. Just about everything we do is copied from what he does.”
Pruitt said he met Meyer the night of Feb. 14, 2005, while he was Dickinson Trinity’s assistant boys basketball coach under Gregg Grinsteinner. Trinity had traveled to Crosby to play Divide County and standout Derek Benter, whom Meyer was recruiting.
Following the game, Pruitt and Grinsteinner met Meyer at center court.
“All I remember is the humbleness he had,” Pruitt said.
Exactly six years and countless conversations later Pruitt received a phone call from Meyer — about 20 minutes before Heart River was set to play in the 2011 District 13 championship.
“He said, ‘Coach Pruitt, grab a pen, I’ve got a few things for you,” Pruitt said with a smile. “He goes, ‘Keep it simple.’ He said, ‘No matter what happens, be proud of your kids and keep working hard.’”
The Cougars lost to New England that night, but Pruitt said that conversation and Meyer’s words kept him motivated. One year later, the Cougars beat Bowman County to win their first District 13 title.
Pruitt said Meyer’s book has become required reading for players on his team and that they often pass the book around throughout the season.
“I don’t think I’m that inspiring,” Meyer said on April 17 during a speaking engagement at Lemmon (S.D.) High School. “I think the ideas and the talks can be inspiring. I don’t talk about the wreck. But I try and give them things that they can do and that they can utilize to help their lives. That’s the important thing.”