As he walked out of the locker room, St. Mary’s basketball coach Buddy Meyer was confronted by four television cameras and a print journalist – a media crush by Rattlers standards.
San Antonio Express-News
Photo: Edward A. Ornelas/Express-News
“It would be nice if we could get this kind of attention every night,” Meyer joked.
If every night was as special as Thursday was, they just might. With St. Mary’s 95-37 conquest of Oklahoma Panhandle State in front of 500 fans at Greehey Arena, Meyer earned the 500th victory of his 26-year coaching career, all with the Rattlers.
In typical Meyer fashion, the 64-year-old deflected credit for the latest entry to a list of accomplishments that includes 14 conference titles and the 1988-89 NAIA national championship.
“It’s special, but it’s more important that we won a (Heartland) conference game,” said Meyer, who was an assistant at St. Mary’s for 10 years before taking the reins in 1978.
“I’m the bus driver, so I get a lot of credit for getting us where we are today. But I’m most proud of all the players and coaches I’ve been able to work with over the years. It’s a nice tribute to what our program has evolved into.”
Another will come at halftime of Saturday’s game with St. Edward’s, when Meyer’s jersey will be retired. He was a four-time all-conference selection for the Rattlers from 1961-64.
Other than Meyer’s milestone, the game itself was little more than a light workout for the Rattlers (12-6, 4-0).
They led by 10 points after five minutes, 20 after eight, 30 after 13 and 34 at the half.
For the game, St. Mary’s shot 63.9 percent from the floor and made 10 3-pointers. Dadrein Cooper paced the rout with 24 points in 15 minutes. Teammate Ben McCain added 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting.
Panhandle State (1-14, 1-3) shot only 23.2 percent and committed 21 turnovers.
While Meyer tried to downplay his achievement, his assistant coaches and players weren’t having any of it.
“It’s an honor to be a part of something like that,” Cooper said. “Winning 500 games is a monumental feat. It’s a credit to his consistency and his will to win. He’s been doing it for 26 years.”
Meyer’s son, Bubba, has watched his father’s career unfold from just about every possible vantage point. In addition to growing up around the program, Bubba Meyer played at St. Mary’s before joining the coaching staff last year as an assistant.
Knowing how much effort his father has poured into the team, Bubba said the milestone probably meant more to Buddy than he was letting on.
“You know, I’m sure he knows this is special,” he said. “It’s a testament to his longevity. He’s a cornerstone here. As a son, I couldn’t be more proud.”
For most of the game, Meyer displayed little emotion as he lounged on the bench, his arms crossed and a frown on his face.
But as he accepted a commemorative trophy minutes after the game, Meyer finally cracked a smile.
“Thanks for coming out,” he told the crowd, “and I hope to see you on Saturday for 501.”