As friends, Byrd and Meyer build legendary Battle of the Blvd.
Writing a post-game story can become monotonous after a while. An old colleague of mine may have put it best – stare down your laptop, likely in an empty arena, until you’ve written a story you’re pleased with.
Because of this normal grind, the nights where the monotony is broken become that much more memorable.
And just like the last Battle of the Boulevard game, sometimes that break can overshadow the game itself.
The Belmont Bruins men’s basketball team had blown out the Bison of Lipscomb last February. After the game, another reporter and I were hanging around press row and wrapping up our articles when head coach Rick Byrd walked back on the court and took a seat on one of the end bleachers. He had a friend waiting for him.
Beside Byrd was Don Meyer, the former men’s basketball coach and living legend at Lipscomb. In 24 years at the Church of Christ school, he brought the Bison an unprecedented level of success, including an NAIA national championship. His success even trickled down to Belmont – the motion offense that now defines Bruin basketball was borrowed from Lipscomb in attempt to match the school’s success.
It was apparent that night that Byrd and Meyer became buddies during their tenures, even as the rivalry between the schools grew as competitive as any in Nashville or even the country. At one point, games between the two schools were so big that they could not only fill their respective arenas, but also Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym, three times bigger than what the Curb Event Center or Allen Arena could hold. As both coaches had improved their teams, they created an atmosphere unlike any other when they played each other, complete with some healthy animosity from both fan bases.
And yet there they were, a few hundred feet from me. Chatting it up like the old friends they had become. Their families had joined in now, taking up a few more seats in an empty Allen Arena. The buzz that had once enveloped the gym was all but gone. Even the kids that shoot hoops after every Lipscomb game were heading out. I was too far away to hear their conversations, but I’d bet that moment, that quiet conversation between two local legends, was the highlight of the night for them both.
Meyer left Lipscomb after they jumped to the NCAA, moving to South Dakota to coach at a small school there. It was there were he continued to coach at Northern State, even when lost his leg in a car accident that almost took his life. He retired in 2010, which gave him the chance to come back to Nashville from time to time and watch the occasional basketball game, like he did last year. During one of those visits, he was named to the Nashville Sports Hall of Fame – Byrd had nominated him.
Back at Allen, it was getting late, and the two coaches decided it was time to leave. Up went Byrd. So did Meyer with his cane and prosthetic leg. Together, they walked onto the court bearing Meyer’s name and through one of its gym doors, leaving us reporters to write about a game that, without their knowledge, became the night’s secondary story.
The two friends had upstaged the rivalry they revolutionized, all with one long conversation.
Vision editor Brian Wilson is a senior journalism major.