Lipscomb Athletics Director Philip Hutcheson sees the Don Meyer Evening of Excellence as a “friend-raiser.”
Not only is the annual event, now in its third year, exactly that — and a big one — for the university, Hutcheson also wants it to draw the attention of a variety of people who might not otherwise come to Lipscomb.
“We hope each year that part of what we are doing, through different [speakers] we bring in,” Hutcheson said, “we are attracting different parts of Nashville to Lipscomb’s campus, to learn about the university, to learn about athletics.”
Having legendary college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski as the featured speaker should help. It already sounds like it has.
More than 3,000 tickets have been sold for the event that will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Allen Arena. Hutcheson said fewer than 50 general admission tickets ($25 each) remain.
Krzyzewski just wrapped up his 31st year at Duke, where he has won four national championships. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and has been named national coach of the year 12 times. He also led Team USA to a Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics.
He joins an impressive short list of keynote speakers for the event.
Don Meyer spoke at the inaugural event in 2009.
Meyer coached at Lipscomb for 24 years and just two years ago was in a car accident that led to the amputation of his left leg below his knee and to the discovery of terminal cancer. He retired from coaching last year — he spent the last 11 years at Northern State (S.D.) — as the all-time winningest men’s college basketball coach with 923 wins.
Last year, former Florida and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow spoke in front of more than 5,000 people.
“We felt like Coach K was a great follow-up to Coach Meyer and then Tim Tebow in terms of recognition,” Hutcheson said. “You don’t have to be a sports fan to know who Coach K is and what he is about. We are thrilled to have him.”
Due to his popularity, Krzyzewski is often highly requested as a speaker for fundraising and charity events. In fact, this week he wasn’t available for an interview because he was out of town on recruiting trips and tending to speaking engagements.
“His schedule is crazy — at all times,” said Jon Jackson, Duke’s associate director of media relations.
Hutcheson knew that and knew it might be a longshot to land Krzyzewski. But Meyer and Krzyzewksi have known each other for a while, dating back to when they coached together on an international team in the 1980s.
Meyer, who did not attend the event last year because of a scheduling conflict, will attend Saturday and will speak for a few minutes.
“I think that was part of what got Coach K here, knowing that the event had Coach Meyer’s name on it,” Hutcheson said.
Hutcheson didn’t specify what Krzyzewski would talk about, saying the topic would most likely center around a key theme — excellence.
“That is what Coach Meyer stressed, ‘You can be excellent no matter where you are, who you are, what size school you are,’” Hutcheson said. “So we have just tried to get people here who reflect excellence in what they are doing. ... Different people have different facets of that idea that they can expand upon. That is what we want them to talk about. Coach K will be talking about excellence, teamwork and how he has built the program he has built over the years.”