Northern State coach has leg amputated as part of cancer treatment

Updated: September 19, 2008, 6:10 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Northern State men's basketball coach Don Meyer had his lower left leg amputated -- a move critical to treating his cancer -- Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The cancer was discovered when Meyer was in intensive care after a car accident. Meyer, who is the NCAA's active career leader in wins with 891, was leading his team on a six-car caravan for a retreat outside of Aberdeen, S.D., two weeks ago when the accident occurred.

Meyer's son, Jerry, and Northern State athletic director Bob Olson said removing the lower left leg is the first step. They couldn't start to treating his cancer until the leg injury was dealt with.

"He's really relieved," Jerry Meyer said. "Within 24 hours after the accident [Sept. 5] he said, 'Take it off. I can coach without it.' He cracked us up."

Jerry Meyer said doctors needed to treat his father's cancer, which was discovered in his liver when he had emergency surgery to remove his spleen after the accident.

"They weren't going to be able to do the tests for his cancer in the condition he was in," Jerry Meyer said. "There's no way the leg would have healed. He was in intense pain. He kept saying to get that thing off."

Olson said anytime Don Meyer moved in his bed he was in tremendous pain. Poor circulation in his lower left leg had been a problem for two weeks. He has had multiple vascular surgeries to no avail.

Don Meyer took the brunt of the impact from being sideswiped by a truck on the left side of his car. For reasons unknown, Don Meyer swerved into the oncoming lane of traffic on the two-lane highway at 5 p.m. CT on Sept. 5. He ended up in a ditch and was airlifted to a Sioux Falls hospital.

Jerry Meyer said the fear was his father would need an amputation above the knee. He said his family was overjoyed it was below the knee. Don Meyer will get a prosthetic within three months but hopes he can get in a wheel chair or use a walker soon.

"It's not outside the realm of possibility that he would coach this year -- by the first game, who knows, maybe the first practice," Jerry Meyer said.

Northern State, a Division II program, opens with an exhibition game on Oct. 25. It plays two Division I exhibition games against Minnesota Nov. 6 and Purdue on Nov. 8 on the road and then opens the regular season against Mount Marty College at home on Nov. 18.

"Nothing would surprise me if he coached," Olson said.

Don Meyer is known as a coach's coach and the king of coaching clinics and video tapes. He has disciples from all levels of basketball. Jerry Meyer said he could see his father coaching as soon as he is cleared -- even from a wheel chair.

"But he's never coached sitting down," Jerry Meyer said. "I've never seen him coach sitting down."

Senior writer Andy Katz covers men's basketball for ESPN.com

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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