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Jay Jennings
January 08, 1990
An innovative coach has made little David Lipscomb a powerhouse in the NAIA
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January 08, 1990

Making It Big In The Smalls

An innovative coach has made little David Lipscomb a powerhouse in the NAIA

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After practices and games, win or lose, the players enter the locker room, and each immediately pulls out a three-ring binder. An unsmiling Meyer writes with a felt-tip marker on a white board. His players write with their pens in their notebooks, which they fill with notes on Meyer's remarks.

The idea is to force Meyer to organize and simplify his thoughts and help the players learn his system. "You don't just come in there and start talking," he says. "I've got to present my points one, two, three, because the players are taking notes. I like to look at Hutcheson's notebook, because if he doesn't get it, I know we're in trouble." Last year Hutcheson was named the Academic All-America Player of the Year in the college division, which encompasses all NAIA schools and those in the NCAA's divisions II and III. He has a 4.0 grade point average with a double major in political science and communications.

Meyer's philosophy, in essence, is this: The best way to get your players to do what you want is to make them into coaches. "You're not a fan when you watch a game," says 6'6" Darren Henrie, Lipscomb's best alley-oop dunker. "You get that into your head."

Lipscomb's lopsided winning margins and Meyer's 367-122 record have attracted attention in other parts of Music City. Last January, when C.M. Newton announced he was leaving Vanderbilt to become Kentucky's athletic director, Meyer was mentioned as a possible replacement. He doesn't completely rule out a move to Division I, but he prefers the life at Lipscomb. He says, "You can sweep the floor before practice, or you can deal with the media like they do in the ACC. I don't know which would be more fun, but I lean toward sweeping the floor. The only thing that would make me want to move to another level would be to prove that what we're doing here can be done there."

Meyer's influence extends to higher levels already, though, because of those instructional tapes and his camp. He started making the tapes in 1986 after he and assistant coach Ralph Turner watched videos of the NAIA tournament and saw that the Bisons were executing particularly well. They decided to use those clips to illustrate Meyer's system. For starters, they produced eight tapes, with Turner as editor. Now there are 16 videos in the series, each selling for $35; a complete set goes for $400.

Meyer's enthusiasm for the tapes has made him the subject of ribbing from his players and other coaches. When the subject comes up, one player recites, "Tape 22: Taking Showers with the Bisons." And when the NAIA preseason rankings for 1988-89 came out with Lipscomb on top, Meyer received a letter from Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who wrote, "I cannot believe a guy who produces more instructional videotapes than he does players can actually be coaching a team that is rated number one in the pre-season."

If Coach K could observe a Bison camp, he might better understand how Meyer produces his players. Hutcheson and Tomlinson each attended the camp for more than seven years, and all the Lipscomb players teach at the camp. The system becomes second nature. "There's nothing better than teaching to learn something," says Meyer.

"All of us will say how much we hate camps, and they get old sometimes, but there's a benefit from being together year-round," says Tomlinson.

That togetherness probably helped Henrie improve the timing on his alley-oops, but the summers were more important for him in other ways. After working in his first camp, he became an elementary education major. "He's the best I've ever seen working with kids," says Meyer. If Meyer has any luck, some of those kids will come back to Lipscomb, just as Philip Hutcheson did.

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