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Guest irishrick

Meyer was an ambassador, role model and coach

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 - Bangor Daily News

News last week that college basketball coaching legend Ray Meyer died brought back memories of the time in 1977 when the celebrated coach spent a week here with a bunch of younger coaches who hung on his every word.


It was early October 1977, and under the auspices of the Maine All-American Coaches Clinics - currently HOOPS, Inc. - we brought in such college coaching notables as Ray Meyer of DePaul University, Guy Lewis of Houston, and Fred Taylor of Ohio State fame, to speak to area coaches on the finer points of basketball.


Locally, coaches such as Bob Cimbollek, who was working at Bangor High School, Robbie MacDonald, whose first love was swimming, and sporting goods entrepreneur David Goldsmith, along with yours truly, presented what was, arguably the finest coaching clinic for basketball aficionados the area had ever seen.


The highlight of the weekend's proceedings was the time we spent with Ray Meyer. In fact, the Chicago coach liked it so much here that he stayed an extra week. He even flew in his lovely wife, Marge, and a grand old time was had by all.


Here I was, a 27-year-old, bucking-for-private coach, in the presence of a college coaching legend. It was an experience that caused me to pinch myself from time to time just to make sure this was all really happening.


We wined and dined the Meyers for a week, then sat back and reveled in the hoop history that only a gentleman like Ray could provide his audience.


The old Pilots Grill restaurant in Bangor was our port of call, and how the coach loved Maine seafood, especially lobsters. Night after night we ate together. Ray and his wife did the obligatory Bar Harbor tours together, but each evening the Meyers returned to their hotel, we eagerly scampered to Pilots, waiting for the couple to arrive at the famous restaurant.


"Never worry about things you can't control," he told us. "We all spend too much time in this life worrying."


"Enjoy each team you coach because each team is special, unique," he said. "Coaches have a tendency to focus on the end of the season too much. It's all the in-between stuff that makes this profession of ours so grand."


On my wall, I have two pictures of famous coaches who affected what I did in the gym during my 34 years or so of working with young people.


One is of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, and one is of Ray Meyer. Both these gentlemen took time out of their busy lives to share pearls of wisdom with a young coach who emulated their every move.


Meyer's DePaul teams and Wooden's UCLA squads always reflected the high values that they learned from their coaches.


I feel honored to have spent a week with Ray Meyer. His quiet, unassuming style was impressive.


In 1983, I had the privilege to accompany UMaine men's basketball coach Thomas "Skip" Chappelle to the men's Final Four in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Joey Meyer, Ray's son, who was a DePaul assistant at the time, was talking with Georgetown coach John Thompson in the lobby of our hotel. I approached them, introduced myself, and told Joe what a treat it was to spend time with his family in Maine.


"Dad still raves about that trip," he said. "So, you're the guy who hosted them."


And with that, the topic turned to the matchups for that historic Final Four.


Rest in peace, Ray. You were college basketball's best ambassador for decades, and your legacy will live on through the players and the coaches you touched.


NEWS columnist Ron Brown, a retired high school basketball coach, can be reached at bdnsports@bangordailynews.net :)

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