Coach Ray Meyer laid to rest
March 21, 2006 (WLS) -- Funeral services were held Tuesday morning at St. Vincent's Church for legendary DePaul University coach Ray Meyer. Meyer died Friday. He was 92 years old.
Father John Smyth of Maryville Academy told a large gathering at Vincent De Paul Church that Meyer was a gifted and outstanding man with a great sense of humor who gave much to his sport and also was very humble. Among those attending was a who's-who of basketball greats, including Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown, Bobby Knight and Mark Aguirre, one of Meyer's greatest players.
"He was looking down from above and really proud of the crowd and he's really excited, and I think he feels like we created the right kind of party atmosphere to send him off," said Jean Lenti Ponsetto, DePaul athletic director.
"He treated all of us all like sons, and his kindness, it was important to us when we were growing up as young men," said Isiah Thomas, New York Nicks president.
The visitation, which was open to the public, was held Monday afternoon and night at St. Vincent DePaul Church on the North Side. Crowds turned out to say goodbye to the man some knew as a great coach and others knew as a friend.
Many in Chicago are mourning the loss of one of this city's beloved icons. Legendary DePaul basketball coach Ray Meyer passed away Friday at the age of 92. Meyer had recently been very ill and died of congestive heart failure.
Considered a father figure to the dozens of players who crossed his court, Meyer is an icon in Chicago college sports. Over 42 seasons he coached the Blue Demons to 724 wins. But he also had impact off the court.
Coach Rays' legacy can't be judged by numbers in a record book. For Coach it was more about teaching than winning. From George Mikan to Dave Corzine to Mark Aguirre to Tyrone Corbin. The boys he made into men over the years became fiercly loyal not only to the coach with the gap-toothed grin. but also to the University he represented. The late Hall of Famer George Mikan summed up those thoughts at the dedication of the Ray Meyer fitness center.
"I can never repay Ray for what he's done for me. My whole life has been around what he's taught me," said Hall of Famer George Mikan who was coached by Meyer at the dedication of the Ray Meyer Fitness Center.
Meyer was two-time team captain at Notre Dame in the late 1930's. He became Coach Ray when he took over at DePaul in 1942.
"I remember the players who played for me. Little different incidents about them, the funny we'd have, a lot of time with them. I think that -- I'm very grateful for them," said Meyer during an interview with ABC7.
1984 was the final year for Ray as Head Coach of the Demons. He was passing the torch to his son Joey who went on to coach DePaul for the next 13 years. He talked to the team in lockeroom at the then Rosemont Horizon for last time before the game.
"I want to say this once and for all, I'm very grateful to this team. This team hold a special place in my heart. And in my memory. You've come further and done more than a lot of the more talented teams that played at DePaul. I'm very proud of you. Win or lose, I'll still be very proud of you," said Meyer to his team before that final game.
His son, Joey, took over and led DePaul for 13 years. Joey was fired in 1997, which is when Meyer cleaned out his office for the last time.
"You can't spend over half your life in one place. And then not miss it. And it's very difficult decision to walk on, something like that. I always looked at life as a time to come and it's time to go. So I came here, and in all good faith, a lot of respect and integrity. I'm going to leave that way," said Meyer.
"Ray Meyer is an iconic figure in the history of basketball in America and the life of DePaul University," said the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., DePaul's president. "He represented all that is good about college athletics a pure love for the game, an unwavering commitment to fair competition and, most importantly, a genuine respect for his student athletes. Not only was Ray a national champion, he was a hero to his colleagues, players and thousands of children who attended basketball camps hosted by the man they knew simply as 'Coach.'"
The wake for Ray Meyer is Monday at St. Vincent DePaul parish, at 1010 W. Webster, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. The funeral mass is set for Tuesday at 10 a.m.
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