Former DePaul coach Ray Meyer honored

  • Former DePaul Ray Meyer was honored Saturday night during the State Farm Chicago Legend doubleheader at the United Center. Meyer's son Joey accepted the "Chicago Legend" honor on his behalf.

    Former DePaul Ray Meyer was honored Saturday night during the State Farm Chicago Legend doubleheader at the United Center. Meyer's son Joey accepted the "Chicago Legend" honor on his behalf. Daily Herald File Photo

 
By Evan F. Moore
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 12/17/2016 10:56 PM

The Meyer name has had a hand in DePaul basketball in form or another for over 50 years.

Former DePaul coach Joey Meyer's father Ray, a DePaul coach and Chicago hoops legend was honored along with Mark Aguirre, one of his former players between the State Farm Chicago Legend doubleheader at the United Center Saturday night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He's been gone for 10 years now and you forget the legend he was. It's really nice to renew that and to be in the first class is kind of neat and it's fitting he's go in with Mark (Aguirre) because Mark and coach we're tight at the hip," Joey Meyer said. "Obviously, coach went to great heights when Mark was playing for him."

The elder Meyer brought the Blue Demons to national prominence by making an appearance in the Final Four back in 1979. Ray's effect on Chicago basketball looms large as he kept local preps phenoms like Aguirre, George Mikan and Terry Cummings local. Ray, a former Arlington Heights resident, coached the Blue Demons to 37 winning seasons. In 1979, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

He died in 2006 at the age of 92.

"I tell people if they wanted to make a mold of what a coach should be, that was coach Ray. I'm not sure if he could do the same things today with social media and the recruiting and such. But he had time for everybody and he treated everybody the same," Joey said. "He never said no to a charity and he won 700 games"

Joey, who had played for his father at DePaul, took over in 1984 after his dad retired. Joey had a 231-158 record in 13 seasons at his alma mater, in which his teams made the NCAA tournament seven times. He said that his father gave him two pieces of advice when he first became coach.

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"He gave me two pieces of advice and one of them was have better talent than the opposition. And he told me to eat after games," Joey said. "I didn't know what he meant by that but he said to keep things in perspective. He would eat with friends after a tough loss. After a loss, I would go look at tape."

When Joey was forced out in 1997 after a 3-23 record, he had spent 30 years at DePaul as either a player, assistant coach and head coach. After leaving DePaul, Joey coached in the NBA's D-League for 11 seasons. including coaching the Ashville Attitude to back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005.

These days, Joey currently provides color commentary for WGN during broadcasts of Northwestern basketball games. Looking back, he often wondered how he father did job while coaching him when he played for the Blue Demons.

"I thought that was really hard. You want to be one of the guys but that's your father. For the coach, you want him to just one of the players but that's your son," he said. "I really enjoyed being his assistant coach for 13 years, but as a player, I thought it was hard. Things bothered me more. As a player, the team would talk about him as coach but that's your dad. Do you join in or not? I thought that was difficult to do. I got to see how he balanced coaching with his personal life."

Ray was unhappy about the circumstances surrounding the firing of his son. In later years, he and the school patched up their relationship. In 1999, the recreation center on the school's Lincoln Park campus was named Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center. DePaul students and faculty affectionately call it "The Ray."

"He was a "grandpa" type of guy and everyone loved him. You didn't want to cross him in practice. Every night, he was doing a charity and he would always give the money back."

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