Chapter 2 || National Champions

The Tennessean

In the 1975 offseason Lipscomb hired Don Meyer, who compiled a 37-41 record at Division III Hamline University, to be its head coach. Meyer went 11-19 his first year with the Purple and Gold. He never had another losing season in route to becoming college basketball’s all-time wins leader, a list on which today he sits at seventh place with 923 career wins.

Meyer led the Bisons to their first two NAIA Tournament appearances in 1982 and 1985. Lipscomb only lasted one game the first time around, falling to Kearney State 92-87. They followed that up by advancing one game further in 1986, losing in the second round to one-seed Fort Hayes State 55-48.

After the pair of early exits, Meyer’s boys went on the run of their lives in the during the 1986 tournament.

Lipscomb entered the 1986 NAIA National Championship Tournament in Kansas City as an 11-seed after knocking out Lincoln Memorial in their district championship game. They opened up tournament play by eliminating Minnesota-Duluth 62-56 in the first round. In the second round, the Bisons defeated seventh-seeded Emporia State 79-76 in what was essentially a home game for the local Kansas school. Lipscomb dispatched 14th-seeded Central Washington 80-64 in the Elite Eight before taking down another seventh-seed in St. Thomas Aquinas 102-91 in the semifinals.

Meyer’s squad handled Arkansas-Monticello easily in the title bout 67-54 to become NAIA National Champions. John Kimbrell was named tournament MVP after scoring 22 in the clinching match. Lipscomb finished the season with a then program-best 35-4 record.

“Don was greatly respected as a coach and of course as a role model to all of his players,” said longtime sports reporter from The Tennessean Mike Organ. “He built that program from the ground up to what it is today, but, as a reporter, he was gold for one reason: you could ask the man about anything and it would be instantly ready to print.”

The Bisons would rattle off 10 NAIA National Tournament appearances in the next 13 seasons as Meyer built a nationally-renowned program from the ground up with his hard-lined coaching. But through the almost-mythical presence and imminently-quotable sound bites, Meyer had a simple outlook on life.

As outlined in the 2010 biography of the legendary coach, How Lucky You Can Be, by ESPN personality and Nashville native Buster Olney, through all of his hardships and successes, Meyer offered three rules for life:

  1. Everybody takes notes.
  2. Everybody says “please” and “thank you.”
  3. Everybody picks up trash.


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