Some of you may know that I played a little basketball in my day. Well, my brothers-in-law were stars. Ron Norman, the oldest, played at Iowa with Sammy Williams and Freddy Brown, and his coach was the legendary Ralph Miller. Then Tom played with Ronnie Lester at Iowa, and he played against Magic Johnson, and his coach was Lute Olsen (now at Arizona). And Pete played at Eastern Illinois, and is now the best JUCO coach in the USA. His Highland Cougars (Freeport, IL) are in the Final Four, and we listened to the game last evening on the internet. The radio announcer, Donnie Werntz, was a friend of both Kris’s and mine, and I used to “unicycle” with his brother. Highland has a bus load of fans at the game (Cougar Nation) and they play Friday night in the semis. Go Cougars! Way to go Pete.
Some of you also may know that a legendary coach in the Chicago area, a devout Roman Catholic, Ray Meyer, died. I learned alot about basketball from Ray Meyer. No kidding.
My high school basketball coach, Farrell Benefiel, a unique character, urged each of us when we were in junior high and high school to go to “Ray Meyer’s Boys Camp” in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. So, a bundle of us went. Joey Meyer, Ray’s son and eulogizer at the funeral mass yesterday, was my cabin captain. Tom Meyer, Ray’s older son, was one of my coaches; and Bobby (we called him “Binky”) was a player with us. On top of that, one of my cabin captains was Doug Bruno, now a legendary coach of the DePaul’s women basketball team.
Well, Ray taught us many things but what I remember the most was that we had to learn how to “pick and roll” right and we practiced it until we got it right. The secret key I remember, and which stood me in good stead whenever I was picking or rolling or teaching kids to pick and roll — if you are picking, “keep your eyes on the ball” and you’ll never turn away from the ball.
Ray was big on passing and moving away from the ball; he was big on getting the ball to the big man; he was big on playing hard; and he was very big on playing the game the way it was meant to be played. In other words, competitively but honorably.
Two other thoughts: Ray was always saying the rosary, and you could see him fingering his beads in his pockets whenever he was coaching and teaching. And Ray had a mass said every morning before breakfast — which he always attended.
Once he gave a few of us Protestants a ride into the local community to attend a church on Sunday morning; what he didn’t know was that we just wanted to get away from the grind of playing.
Ray Meyer was a good man who taught us to play the game right. All of us from that era will miss Ray Meyer.