Bygone DePaul: Ray Meyer

Bygone DePaul is a series highlighting DePaul’s campus and how it has changed through the years.

Ray MeyerCan you think of any College-level basketball coach who spent 42 years with the same team? Ray Meyer (b. 1913 d. 2006), head coach of Blue Demons, came to DePaul in 1942 and retired in 1984. Meyer (who everyone called simply “Coach”) remains one of the most successful college basketball coaches in the history of the sport. His record when he retired was 724-354 (.671). During his career, thirteen of his teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament, three to the Final Four (once it was created), and in 1945 the DePaul Blue Demons team won the national championship. Ray Meyer ranks 16th on the NCAA Division I all-time list, and he was named Coach of the Year in 1978 and 1980 by the United States Basketball Writers Association and National Coach of the Year in 1980 and 1984 by the Associated Press. One of Meyer’s first players was George Mikan, who came to the Blue Demons as a freshman in 1942. Meyer and Mikan worked together to form and focus his talent, and after his DePaul career George Mikan went on to become one of the pioneers of professional basketball and a founder of the American Basketball Association.

Ray Meyer’s outstanding record is only one story of his career at DePaul. Meyer had a larger than life personality, and could be found not only castigating his team for a win of just two points but also mentoring each of his players so that they reached the peak of their ability. A devout Catholic, he attended mass before every game and encouraged his players to do the same. President Holtschneider said in 2006, “Ray [Meyer] made DePaul University a household name. … He was as good a friend to politicians, business leaders and sports figures as he was to local charities on whose behalf he spent countless hours signing autographs and making wildly popular personal appearances.” For the first years of his coaching tenure, Meyer said that DePaul saw athletics as “tolerable”, but “they never realized what the game could do for the school.” Meyer showed them differently. As he continued as Coach, Meyer’s winning seasons brought press and notoriety to what was then a small and unknown school. The Coach was a pillar of DePaul throughout his tenure, and his legacy lives on in the Ray Meyer Fitness Center at Sheffield and Webster and stretch of Belden near DePaul was renamed “Ray Meyer Honorary Way”.

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