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Basketball Coaching Great Meyer Dies at 92

CHICAGO (AP) -- Ray Meyer, the grandfatherly basketball coach whose 42-year tenure at DePaul stretched from George Mikan to Mark Aguirre, died Friday, the school said. He was 92.

Details were not immediately available. His death was confirmed by athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto.

The timing of his death is poignant, coming as the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament gets into full swing around the nation. Meyer twice took the Blue Demons to the NCAA Final Four, helped develop Mikan -- who would eventually become basketball's first dominating big man -- and coached DePaul to the 1945 NIT title.

Meyer had an eye for talent with players like Aguirre, Terry Cummings, Dallas Comegys and Dave Corzine, who parlayed their college experience into pro careers. But no player he coached had as much of an impact on the game as Mikan, who died in June 2005.

Meyer had just been hired at DePaul in 1942 when he was introduced to a 6-foot-10 student with thick glasses.

"I saw George Mikan," Meyer recalled, "and I saw my future."

Under Meyer's tutelage, Mikan became a two-time college player of the year. A half-century ago, no one had seen someone that tall with such agility, tenacity and skill.

From the days of two-handed set shots to the slam dunk era, Meyer either coached or broadcast 1,467 consecutive Blue Demons games, a 55-year streak. He retired in 1984 with a 724-354 record and then became a special assistant to the president while also doing radio commentary.

His 1978-79 team reached the Final Four by beating Southern California, Marquette and UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Demons lost 76-74 to Larry Bird's Indiana State team in the semifinals, then defeated Penn 96-93 to finish third.

Meyer's 1943 team also made it to the NCAA Final Four. Two years later, the Blue Demons, behind Mikan, won the NIT championship.

Meyer said coaching had become mainly a job of preparation.

"A coach does less coaching than ever once the game begins. The shot clock has taken away decisions. It's all preparation now. Players are on their own when they hit the floor," he said in a Chicago Tribune interview just before his 80th birthday.

His team was ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll at the end of the regular season in both 1980 and 1981, and his 1982 squad ended up second. Those three teams had a combined record of 59-3 in the regular season but lost the first round of the NCAA Tournament each year.

Meyer's Demons made 13 trips to the NCAAs and seven to the NIT. His 1945 team won the NIT when it was the more prestigious of the two postseason competitions.

Meyer's teams posted 37 winning seasons and had 20-win campaigns 12 times. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.

He retired in 1984 and his son, Joey, took over, lasting 13 years until he was forced to resign in 1997 after a 3-23 season.

Joey Meyer had played and been an assistant under his father.

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