On Sept. 5, 2008, Don Meyer was driving at the front of a caravan of players and assistant coaches in Aberdeen, S.D., leading the Northern State team to a weekend retreat. Meyer, 63, was set to enter his 37th season as a basketball coach, and he was 11 wins away from setting an NCAA men's coaching record by surpassing Bob Knight’s career victory total of 902.
But just before 5 o’clock on a beautiful and warm afternoon, Meyer -- a workaholic -- fell asleep at the wheel of his Prius, veered across the yellow lines and hit a semi hauling 33 tons of corn head-on. Every rib in Meyer’s chest was broken, his spleen was damaged beyond repair, and his left leg was mangled. He was life-flighted twice in the hours that followed in an effort to keep him alive.
When the trauma surgeon opened Meyer’s abdomen to contain the internal bleeding, the doctor immediately saw the tumors in Meyer’s small intestine and liver. Carcinoid cancer; it was inoperable and terminal, and before that moment, undiagnosed and unknown to Meyer and his family.
Stoic, tough and demanding, Meyer had had a lasting impact on those in his program long after they stopped playing for him. Wade Tomlinson, a guard for David Lipscomb College from 1986-90, knew this firsthand. His story and countless others are recounted in my new book, "How Lucky You Can Be."
To read more about Meyer's legacy and his heroic journey since the accident, click here for a chapter excerpt.
Make sure to tune in Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET as Meyer's old program (Northern State) takes on his old rival (Belmont) in the first annual Don Meyer Classic. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.