As many across the country watch postseason basketball this time of year, a well-known Aberdeen coach says he does as well. Only, Don Meyer isn’t watching for highlight reel material. He’s looking for servant attitudes.
Even after his retirement from coaching, Meyer and his wife Carmen are still active in the Aberdeen community. They helped kick off a fundraising drive for a new cancer center last week. He's fighting inoperable cancer himself.
"Coach is kicking hard right now. And he's obviously in the last chapters of his life but just seeing how active he still is and he's still willing to get out there and help people," former player Kevin Ratzsch said.
Kevin Ratzsch was a player on Meyer's team from 2004 to 2009.
"He just developed us, our character, our integrity," Ratzsch said. "Everything he did, he always did it the right way. And if we did it the wrong way, he let us know."
Team before self and acting as a servant to others was the requirement Ratzsch recalls while playing for NSU. That's what Meyer says he still watches for as he's a spectator of the game.
"Unselfishness and willing to give up your bodies for your teammates and willing to do the tough, the dirty jobs I guess we'd call them. Those are the things I notice, much more so than the people who can dunk, stuff like that," Meyer said.
Current NSU coach Paul Sather assisted Meyer five years at NSU.
"Not everybody could play for him. He had to have that mentality that it's about this team. It's not about me. And it was a fun group of people to always be associated with because it was always a selfless team that we had," Sather said.
"That carried on into my life outside of basketball and after basketball. Putting others first, serving others, that's what I live by," Ratzsch said.
Bob Olson coached men's basketball at NSU before Meyer. He was the athletic director who hired him. Olson agrees the Meyers’ impact is great.
"It's so much bigger than a basketball program. It's a basketball program, but it's a university, it's a community and it's a region and I think even the state," Olson said.
Big names the likes of ESPN's Buster Olney have visited Aberdeen because of Meyer. He wrote a book about the coach called How Lucky You Can Be.
When Meyer helped start the cancer center fundraising drive in Aberdeen, the governor was there.
"Don and Carmen, we are a better state and we are a better people because you came to live with us. How lucky we are, how lucky we are and how grateful we are that you did," Gov. Dennis Daugaard said.
The Meyers have been in and out of hospitals in recent years as the coach's health has declined.
"It's something that I would have preferred never to have to experience. But since we are in that situation, we just do the best we can, rely on God to give us strength, get us through day to day," Carmen Meyer said.
And based on what Meyer taught, former player Ratzsch says he expects to see a servant attitude, still.
"It's just a great sign of his character and what he's going to continue to build even when he passes away," Ratzsch said.