NO BASKETBALLcoach left a larger footprint in a smaller garden than former DePaul coach RayMeyer, who died last Friday at 92. Over 42 seasons he guided the Blue Demons to724 victories and two trips to the Final Four 36 years apart. His very firstteam, in 1942, included a 6'10" galoot in thick glasses who had neverplayed high school ball; Meyer turned George Mikan into the greatest player ofthe game's first half century by relentless repetition of what became known as"the Mikan drill"--hook after short hook shot, left and right hand inturn, a towel wedged under the off arm to ensure correct form. Meyer didn'tleave Illinois to recruit a player until age 69 and even found his wife, Marge,on a CYO team he was coaching. She knew he liked her when he dropped popcorninto her soft drinks. (Like all of Meyer's players and all six of his children,Marge called her husband "Coach.")
Their son Joeysucceeded Ray upon his retirement in 1984, with the patriarch sliding over toradio duty. In 1997, after a 3-23 season, DePaul let Joey go and his daddisassociated himself from the school in protest. But six years later theonetime aspiring priest granted his old school absolution, and DePaul dedicatedits home floor as the Ray and Marge Meyer Court. Among the few goals Meyerfailed to accomplish: to someday "referee a game played byofficials."