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How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer

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In September 2008, Northern State University men’s basketball coach Don Meyer stood on the brink of immortality. He was about to surpass the legendary Bobby Knight to become the all-time NCAA wins leader in men’s basketball. Then, on a two-lane road in South Dakota, everything changed in an instant.

In How Lucky You Can Be , acclaimed sports journalist Buster Olney tells the remarkable story of the successive tragedies that befell Coach Meyer but could not defeat him. Laid low by a horrific car accident that led to the amputation of his left leg below the knee, Coach Meyer had barely emerged from surgery when his doctors informed him that he also had terminal cancer. In the blink of an eye, this prototypical 24/7 workaholic coach—who arrived at the gym most mornings before 6 a.m.—found himself forced to reexamine his priorities at the age of sixty-three. A model of reserve, Coach Meyer had sacrificed much of his emotional life to his program. His wife, Carmen, felt disconnected because of his habitual reticence, while his three children—all now well into adulthood—had long had to compete with basketball for his attention.

With sensitivity and skill, Olney shows how Coach Meyer mined his physical ordeal for the spiritual strength to transform his life. In the months that followed his accident and diagnosis, he reached out to family, friends, and former players in a way he had never been able to do before, making the most of this one last opportunity to tell those close to him how he felt about them—and in turn he received an outpouring of affirmation that confirmed how deeply he had affected others. Sustained throughout an often painful recovery by his love of basketball, he would return to the court once more—with a newfound appreciation for the game’s place in his life.

The inspirational story of a life renewed by unimaginable hardship, How Lucky You Can Be proves that it’s never too late to start making changes—and reminds us that fortune can smile upon us even in our most trying hours.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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Buster Olney

10 books11 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
34 reviews1 follower
November 1, 2022
This is a very good book about Coach Don Meyer and his recovery from an awful car crash on a South Dakota highway, witnessed by his entire Northern State basketball team who is following him in other cars on their way to a weekend team retreat.
This really shows how touch-and-go the situation was immediately following the crash. Whether he was going to make it at all. Serious internal injuries that had to be dealt with before even dealing with his shattered left leg- which would indeed be amputated sometime later. And the discovery of cancer throughout his body that the Doctor found while probing the internal injuries that threatened his survival, initially.
The book shows the day-to-day struggles that Don has to go through. 55 days in the hospital. Pain. Grueling rehabilitation. Always wanting to get back to coaching. First thing he wrote to his family was, "When can I coach, again?" on a piece of paper.
There are reflections back to his days as the David Lipscomb College Coach in Nashville, Tennessee. How things ended poorly after nearly 25 years of service and tremendous success at the NAIA level.
And the Players. At both schools. Their connections and ties to their coach.
I had coached against Meyer when I served as the Basketball Coach at Cumberland University from 1987-1993 in the old NAIA-affiliated Tennessee Collegiate Athletic Conference (TCAC). A powerhouse league. Many years, David Lipscomb and Belmont University were ranked in the top 5 of the National rankings. So, this story was particularly interesting to me based on the previous experience. I remember Buster Olney covering our games for the Nashville Banner.
It is a story of battling and living each day to the fullest. Inspirational. Great read! I would recommend it.

Profile Image for Jonathan.
32 reviews2 followers
January 22, 2011
Over Christmas I read "How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer" by Buster Olney.

Early on in the book Olney glosses over the Meyer/Lipscomb split: "a disagreement on principle with the administration." I was worried that would be all it said on the subject, but later in the book it was addressed with some detail:

...in the late nineties, the administration began considering a move to Division I-A - a switch that Meyer vehemently opposed.

He believed that the university would have extraordinary difficulty raising the funds needed year after year to meet the costs of travel, as well as expense of adding the sports programs required to join a new conference. He felt, too, that Lipscomb - a church-affiliated school squeezed among the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and other Division I programs in the state of Tennessee - would have difficulty luring the level of student-athletes needed to have a strong program. Lipscomb contended annually for NAIA championships, but at Division I, Meyer believed, the team might have trouble continuing that tradition. He felt that Lipscomb should have more appreciation for the strong programs it already had.

In the end he resigned, feeling betrayed that the university made the decision without what he considered to be adequate deliberation. It was nice to hear how some healing of the relationship between Lipscomb and Meyer was triggered by Philip Hutcheson taking the AD job at Lipscomb. I also didn't know that, after resigning from Lipscomb, Meyer tried and failed to get the coaching job at Pepperdine. It's a shame that didn't work out.

It was interesting to see how Lipscomb's unique environment was described in the book. For example:

David Lipscomb College was affiliated with the Meyers' church, the Church of Christ, and Lipscomb operated under a strict code of conduct, as if there were additional commandments beyond the first ten.

and about how Don's wife felt upon leaving Lipscomb:

[Carmen] felt liberated, in part, by the move. When they were at Lipscomb, they could not have gone out to a restaurant and had a glass of wine, because the school's religious doctrine was so strict.

The book was quite frank about many of the Meyer family struggles...that the relationship between Don and his wife was quite strained before the accident, that both of his daughters got pregnant out of wedlock during the freshman years in college, etc. The one subject that I noticed as conspicuously left (mostly) unexamined was Jerry Meyers' (Don's son) dismissal from the team:

Before Jerry Meyer's senior season, he had violated team rules and Don Meyer kicked him off the team...

I was at Lipscomb at the time and heard rumors about what precipitated Jerry's dismissal. Given that the book was so transparent in discussion of so many other aspects of the Meyer family, Olney's reticence on this subject seemed odd.

Olney does a good job detailing many of the eccentricities that made Meyer the unique character that he is: his fondness for Captain D's, his humor, that he loved listening to Rush Limbaugh on long drives during recruiting trips, etc. It's clear that growing up on a farm with a hardnosed father had a profound influence on his work ethic and parenting style. (As a related aside, I found this anecdote to be quite remarkable and sad: once, when the pigs escaped from their pen, his dad kicked him "over and over" when he didn't figure out a way to contain them.)

Meyer is an interesting guy, and his story is quite inspiring. I especially enjoyed the book given my connection to Lipscomb and time there during part of Meyers tenure.
Profile Image for Cindi.
1,568 reviews81 followers
March 1, 2011
I will start this with a disclaimer. While I am a big sports fan, I am not a huge basketball fan, though I have a son who eats, sleeps and breathes the game. But I am, however, a Buster Olney fan. After winning this book through Goodreads First Read, I admit to holding onto it for awhile. I am so sorry that I did.

This was quite possibly one of the most inspirational stories that I have ever read. Having been a big sports fan my entire life, and having 3 sons who think that there is only one channel on TV (ESPN) I was very much aware of the Coach Don Meyer story. But news headlines, and the stories accompanying them, do not tell the whole story. While they may tell the story behind the accident, they do not always tell the story behind the man. This book does.

As you read this book, you follow along as the accident and the aftermath unfolds. You feel the struggles as Coach Meyer goes through the recovery process. You cry with him and his family over the cancer diagnosis. And you will see something that is extremely rare these days: Community. You will read as people from all walks of life come together in support of "Coach". People who were affected by him in some way. Whether through his coaching, his basketball camps or his faith. His faith is key, and it is very obvious throughout the entire book. And as he is enduring the most trying time in his life, he is always still there for others. This is evident throughout the entire story.

I am so glad I read this book. And I commend the author for telling the story, not only as a writer, but as a friend as well. Most books of this regard are written by strangers of the person to whom the book is about. It was refreshing to read one by someone involved in the person's life.

Coach Meyer has a lot to be thankful for, as he noted throughout the book. God first, his wife, his son and his two daughters and his grandchildren. And for all of those people who have been influenced by him. Not only as a coach, but as a man. I would love to shake his hand someday.

Profile Image for Dacy Briggs.
146 reviews1 follower
August 11, 2021
This being an ESPN book written by Buster Olney (famous Yankee homer), I was a bit skeptical about this book before I read it. However, my heart goes out to Olney and the work he did in getting this book together. A great, small book that does not lack in feeling and emotion. "Hoosiers" written for the 21st century.
Profile Image for Bennett Gavrish.
Author 26 books137 followers
February 1, 2012
Grade: C-

L/C Ratio: 40/60
(This means I estimate the author devoted 40% of his effort to creating a non-fiction work of art and 60% of his effort to creating a commercial bestseller.)

Thematic Breakdown:
40% - Overcoming tragedy
30% - Coaching
20% - Basketball
10% - Midwest community spirit

I consider Buster Olney to be one of the top sports reporters in America, so when I heard he had spent months writing a book about a Division-II college basketball coach, I assumed it was a story I couldn’t afford to miss.

And that’s where my disappointment with How Lucky You Can Be begins (the awkward title doesn’t help, either). Despite a devoted attempt by Olney to paint the life of coach Don Meyer as inspirational and magical, the book never managed to connect with me as a reader. Nonstop generic quotes from former players saying “he changed my life” and “I wouldn’t be where I am now without him” lose their zest pretty quickly. Then again, I’m sure my reaction to the book would have been different if the game of basketball had played a bigger role in my youth, or if I had a special relationship with a coach that was comparable.

Nevertheless, I took issue with coach Meyer’s prevailing philosophy and the way Olney treats it like gospel. In the book, everyone at Northern State University (which is ironically located in South Dakota) praises Meyer for the positive values he instills in his players. But then anytime Meyer’s wife or kids are mentioned in the text, Olney describes how Meyer’s overwhelming obsession with basketball led to him neglecting his own family for most of his coaching career.

Of course, the car accident that How Lucky You Can Be centers around gives Meyer a chance to reevaluate those broken relationships – but that moral conflict prevented me from buying into what were meant to be heartwarming moments.
Profile Image for Co2.
22 reviews1 follower
October 11, 2010
I'm a Buster Olney fan, primarily because I like his work on ESPN and ESPN Magazine about baseball. And baseball writers know how to tell a story. Once they've written about a few thousand ball games, a good baseball beat writer knows what it takes to construct a story that both informs and entertains. That's what Olney does with this story.

It's not baseball; it’s about a basketball coach. Basketball coaches are a strange breed. Don Meyer is a very successful coach though he coaches on a small stage, Division 2. Other coaches in their fraternity know of him but a casual college basketball fan like me won't recognize the name.

You'll recognize Meyer's style though. A tough no nonsense disciplinarian. The only emotions he allows his team and coaches to see are anger and disgust. Read Bobby Knight writ small.

Transformation occurs after a life threatening car accident followed by a cancer diagnoses. Coach Meyer struggles through rehab and learns to express his love and admiration to both his family and his basketball family.

One of the strong points of Olney's story is that he shows that a fully committed coach does have two families and that his athletic family very often overshadows his true family.

Olney also does a great job building the biography of Meyer, you get to know his parents and siblings, where he came from and how he becomes the coach, father and husband he was. Then we follow the transformation into the man he becomes after the accident.

Altogether a nice story, well told, well written.
You'll be hearing about this book often. I just heard the first mention of it on "Mike and Mike in the Morning", ESPN's PR leviathan is beginning to move. Buy it if you like a good sports story and a good story about an interesting man.
Profile Image for Mickey.
22 reviews3 followers
December 30, 2010
This is a quick but fascinating read about the life of the nation's winningest men's college basketball coach - a man most people have never heard of. I was fortunate enough to attend many of Coach Meyer's summer basketball camps and knew his kids slightly as we attended the same schools though they're a few years younger than I am. As I read the descriptions of Coach Meyer and his ballplayers (some of whom were in my class) every word rang true. When I heard the news of Coach's accident, I'd wondered how this would affect his life and reading the book it seems as though, amazingly, it's mostly been affected for the better. The post-accident Coach Meyer described (and that I've seen in TV interviews) is very different from the stern disciplinarian I knew years ago and it seems a bit strange - but I still believe it's a good thing.

Buster's research is spot-on and I loved learning bits about the Meyers and cracked up reading about the circumstances around their first date. It's possible that a non-sports fan might find all the basketball references and descriptions a bit tedious, but it's so integral to who Coach Meyer is (was) that to leave it out would not be true to the story.

Though Coach Meyer did not leave Lipscomb University under the best of circumstances, he's been welcomed back with open arms and he and Buster spent over seven hours signing books one day in December 2010, then spent another 2-3 hours the next day. He's still truly loved in Nashville.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
12 reviews
December 12, 2012
I have read How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney. This book is a biography. I finished this book on 12/12/12. What I liked about this book is that it was realistic. Every word I read felt like I was acutely there with everybody. The words just spoke to me. I could not stop reading this book. I would use the words realistic, amazing, funny, and sportstastic. Yes I would totally read more books by this author if he would have made more. I have learned that you should be thankful for what you have. Don was thankful to god because he felt like he gave Don a 2nd chance to be on this earth. He was thankful for all who supported him and his family in that tough time. He was thankful for the wonderful family that he had. Also I have learned when the going gets tough you got to be tougher. After Don got in the accident he did not give and rot and feel sorry for himself, he fought on and took his rehab like a man and was back to coaching the game he loves! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes sports, basketball, and a guy with a warm heart who is always positive, Coach Don Meyer. I never knew a guy who is a baseball analyst could write a great book about an amazing and inspiring life story about a wonderful man who left a mark in college basketball and the world. Not just for his victories and his kind words of wisdom, for what he did after the crash. Fight on! You got to read this book! You will be glad you did!
1 review
April 3, 2012
2. This book was an amazing book to read. I chose to read it as a college English assignment because I was familiar with Buster Olney’s style of writing. In my eyes he is one of the best writers that ESPN has. In every one of his stories, including this one, there is always that heartwarming or feel good feeling for the main character. Going into the book I had no idea who Don Meyer was. Now after reading this book I believe that Don Meyer is one of the most outstanding role models in all of sports. His form of coaching consisted of teaching perfection, having the team come together as a family, and providing many words of wisdom. My favorite part of the whole book was after the accident when he was laying in his hospital bed and his son Jerry came in. Don was not able to talk so Jerry told him to communicate by writing on a piece of paper. Don Meyer’s first words since the accident were “How long before I can coach again?” This made me laugh a little bit and it showed Don Meyer’s determination to overcome any obstacle set in his way. I would recommend this book to a friend in a heartbeat. It is not a book entirely about basketball. It is about a man that incorporated teaching people how to live life the right way into the game of basketball. This book has many good life messages in it from Don Meyer that I think everyone can use in their everyday lives.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
109 reviews6 followers
December 26, 2010
I loved this book, and I look forward to reading "Playing for Coach Meyer" soon.
I took away many great nuggets, quotes, and moments. But I also felt good about the message of this book: finding purpose in tragedy can lead to amending one's life.
Another of the major themes of this story is that it' OK to do what you love and not chase status. Meyer could've coached at any level he wanted, and his peers at the highest levels know this. But he CHOSE to coach small school basketball because he knew it was his fit. There are loads of us out there, toiling and working at our craft at a level at least as high as those "above" us. This book is for people like us too.
On a personal level I think this book hit me because, while I don't give out many 5-star reviews, I related so much to Coach Meyer. His personality, his style of play, the moments he's experienced and how he articulated them...all of these really struck a chord with me.
I think it's a must read for coaches, athletes and probably parents of athletes.
What adds to the feeling of the book is that it was written by a man whose career arch has matched Meyer's - Buster Olney is a friend of Meyer's and a pro. It all just comes together.
Profile Image for Brandy.
307 reviews20 followers
December 20, 2010
So far this is pretty interesting. Not being a huge sports fan, this book is keeping my attention. Can't wait to finish. I have a feeling the end will be pretty good.

Update: I am a little more than half way through this book. I am really struggling to finish it. I am wanting so badly to give this book a good review as thanks for receiving the book for free, but I just can't. The author writes this book like a research paper. It is obviously written by a male sports fanatic. There really isn't a story flow to the book, it just lists facts and interactions with people. It is obvious that coach Don Meyer was an inspirational man, but this book is just too difficult to read. If it is ever made into a movie (as many motivational sports stories are) the script would need a major overhaul to make this into a story instead of a documentary.

I am now to the point of skimming the book. I do want to see what happens in the end. I will update again when I finish.

Update: I never finished the book. Too boring. If anyone wants this book to try and give it a better review, it's yours!
5 reviews3 followers
March 5, 2011
I nearly loved this book. Buster Olney's storytelling was absolutely superb and I found the book exceptionally easy to read for a non-fiction story. The story of coach Don Meyer is at once inspirational and heartbreaking, and at times forces you to call into question your own interactions with your family and friends.

Sadly, the only bits that I found off-putting were the heavy religious undertones. I say sadly because these simply do not resonate with me, yet it was this conviction of faith that was the cornerstone of Meyer's resolve and recovery. In this sense, the message of the book rang a little hollower than it should have with me, but recognizing that, it wasn't difficult to get the larger message. Friends matter. Family matters. Life matters.

An excellent read for all sports fans, anyone who will coach or has ever been coached or anyone working through their own crisis or tragedy. Buster Olney could not have told this story any better.
Profile Image for Jordyn Roesler.
603 reviews136 followers
August 6, 2019
I think my reading experience would have been a lot better had I known who Don Meyer was before this book. [This book actually belongs to my husband, a big sports fan – I never would have picked it up if we didn’t already own it]. However, I can still appreciate a well-written book with heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories about an incredible coach and person. Very inspiring.
Profile Image for Erika.
3 reviews2 followers
October 13, 2010
In my opinion Buster Olney did an excellent job. There were times during my reading I didn't want to put the book down, I laughed and cried. Any sports coach, players, and fans especially basketball would enjoy this book. It gave an indepth look into Coach Don Meyer's life from beginning to the end, the type of person he was and how just one thing in your life can change your outlook on life and being committed to yourself, family, and friends. I recommend this book it's definitely a MUST read! Thank you to Goodreads and the sponsor/publisher for allowing me to read it in advance!
11 reviews
March 9, 2011
I thought this book was very inspiring and it shows you that nothing is as hard as you think. I personally thought this book is the best book of the year in my opinion. I really enjoyed the life story of coach myer. I really enjoyed his jokes to. You do not have to be a basketball player to read this book you just have to have self pride like coach does. This book tells the story of his childhood all the way up to his adult hood and the horrible accident he was in how it came out in a good way. I really recommend this book to read.
Profile Image for David Sanders.
82 reviews2 followers
February 2, 2013
I borrowed this book from a friend. I don't think Olney is much of a writer, but this story is great. I could not put it down. This is the story of David Lipscomb University's former coach, Don Meyer. The book relates the life of Mr.Meyer, one of the most successful coaches in basketball history, after a horrific car accident resulted in the amputation of one of his legs. Always a man of faith, Mr. Meyer took this opportunity to let people who were close to him know how he really felt about them. A heartwarming story. I recommend it highly.
36 reviews
November 13, 2017
How Lucky You can Be was a pretty good book in my opinion. I really liked the book because it was a realistic book. There were places in the book when it was funny or sad and sometimes had a mix of emotions. Any sports player, coach, and fans of sports would really like this book. From the beginning of the book it took us indepth of the life of Coach Meyer from the beginning to the end. It talked about how life changing events are very hard on the people around you. This was a really good book and would recommend it to many people who enjoy sports or even play sports.
Profile Image for Dale Stonehouse.
435 reviews7 followers
June 17, 2011
Being in the midwest, Don Meyer was in the news locally when he was going to break the all-time record for college basketball wins. Not much was written about his crippling auto accident and subsequent resignation, and this book fills in the gaps. The scope is a bit limited, so don't expect a full biography. But the details of Coach Meyer's effect on players, family and friends, along with how that changed after the accident, make this a worthwhile read, basketball fan or not.
9 reviews
October 20, 2011
I finished How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer by Buster Olney. I thought that this book gives a good book obout his life and what he has done and what he has been thourgh in his life. I thought that the beging was the best because it felt like that you were in the book living the car accident and everything. My favorite part was when he took paper and asked how long it would be until he could coach.
12 reviews
May 17, 2011
This book is great. I read it on the Ipad while I was on vacation. I almost ran down the entire battery. It was great to see a book about about a man from SD. The book had flashbacks and that made the book WAY more interesting than just talking about how he got in the car wreck and the cancer. It made the book almost 3d rather than 2d.
Profile Image for Tom Gase.
876 reviews5 followers
December 4, 2011
A pretty good book by Buster Olney on the car accident Don Meyer was involved in and his comeback he had to get back to coaching. Pretty inspirational story. My only problem was the religious undertones were a little too much at times, but all-in-all a good story. Seems Olney can write about more than just baseball.
2 reviews2 followers
May 23, 2011
Story of college basketball coach Don Meyer who was in a horrible car accident and then found out he had terminal cancer. The book outlined his relationships with his family and how drastically his perspective changes as he deals with these tragedies.
681 reviews
February 23, 2013
An interesting story of a successful small college basketball coach who suffers a life altering injury from a car crash. Although it deals with overcoming adversity and facing new obstacles, it helps if the reader understands and appreciates the world of college basketball.
11 reviews
December 17, 2012
This book is the best book I have ever read in my whole entire life. A good review for this book will be next. This book really realizes how lucky you can be, the title really fits the book. My favorite part is when he gets nominated for the ESPY award Jimmy V award for perseverance.
Profile Image for Jonathan Stefanopoulos.
52 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2016
I really enjoyed reading this book about Don Meyer. I learned a lot about being a leader, teacher, and coach. I loved the way he handled his players. He was brilliant and was not out to get fame and recognition. He just loved the game of basketball.
Profile Image for Kathy.
2,741 reviews5,976 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish-or-not-for-me'
January 28, 2011
This sounds like such a great story, but I'm so back logged on books to read I'm passing this one on to another reviewer to read.
Profile Image for Darla.
142 reviews
April 9, 2011
One of those books that makes you want to be a better person.
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