FINCASTLE – “A lot of Don Meredith stories are going to be told,” Michael Pauley said on learning that the former Lord Botetourt High School boys basketball coach had died early Friday morning at his home near Fincastle.
And a lot of them were told Sunday afternoon in the LBHS gym—a place called the “Don Dome” and “The Palace” when Meredith was coaching—when hundreds of friends, family and former players gathered for what has been the only funeral visitation held on the court where Meredith ruled between 1976 and 1995.
Pauley, who owns MPC Construction, played on the last team Meredith coached before he retired in 1995. Pauley was not a basketball star. Instead, he was like the majority of the former players—he liked playing basketball for Meredith and he also respected him as a coach and general from the bench.
Besides being well-known for his basketball coaching skills and flamboyant style courtside, the 69-year-old Meredith also was mid-way through his second term as the Fincastle Election District representative on the Board of Supervisors.
He was raised on the family farm near Fincastle and graduated from Fincastle High School in 1958 as one of the school’s top basketball players ever.
He went on to Ferrum College, then a junior college, and then graduated from Lynchburg College with a BA in physical education. He is enshrined in the sports halls of fame at both Lord Botetourt High School and Ferrum College.
His first job was teaching at Floyd County High School, where he coached basketball, football, track and golf. He led the basketball team to a district championship.
His next job was teaching at Liberty High School, where he was the school’s head basketball coach. He moved back to Botetourt to the family farm in 1971 when his father passed away. He taught at Botetourt Intermediate, and then went to Lord Botetourt High School in 1976 where he became the head basketball coach.
Meredith continued to farm and he taught and coached at LBHS for 19 years, until 1995 when he retired. He led LBHS to eight district championships, 11 trips to the regionals, one regional championship and berths in two Group AA State Basketball Tournaments in 1987 and 1989. Meredith finished his varsity coaching career with an overall 338-216 won-lost record, and 255-169 at LBHS.
Meredith also holds the Fincastle High School career scoring record and while in high school he made 449 consecutive free throws.
He also served as president and vice-president of Botetourt Country Club before running for the Board of Supervisors as an Independent in the fall of 2003.
He won the election over two other candidates, and was re-elected in November 2007.
When he ran the first time for the Board of Supervisors, he said his approach to local government would be one of common sense. “The people are starved for common sense,” he said. His greatest asset, he said, was his knowledge of the people in the district and their needs.
Health issues forced him to miss several supervisors’ meetings in the past year, and last fall he relinquished the committee seats he held hoping that his health would improve.
Meredith supported two major capital projects while on the Board of Supervisors—the renovations and additions at James River High School and the new Eagle Rock Library that’s currently under construction. Meredith helped secure the land for the library that will open this spring.
Locally, Meredith was credited with prompting the Virginia High School League to establish a short-lived rule that basketball coaches had to stay seated during play.
And those stories Pauley referred to—well, you have to look no further than his last game as a coach to get an idea of what it was like to be around Don Meredith.
After losing to Alleghany by 33 points during their last regular season meeting, Meredith’s 1994-95 team was up by three points with seven seconds left in the their Blue Ridge District tournament game.
But the Cavaliers missed a free throw that would have iced the game, only to have the rebound picked up by Alleghany. The Mountaineer then heaved an 80-foot 3-pointer that banged in to tie the game and send it into overtime. The shot made ESPN and CNN. Alleghany went on to win in overtime.
In typical Meredith fashion, he blamed the loss on a pink shirt he was wearing. He went on to relate that it seemed everything crazy that ever happened to him happened when he was wearing a pink tie, a pink sports coat or a pink shirt.