Like Georgetown without Patrick Ewing, the De Paul Blue Demons have had their own go-round of "Life Without a Legend." Joey Meyer, son of coaching icon Ray Meyer, for 42 years the guiding spirit of De Paul, found that picking up where his father left off wasn't the most rewarding experience in the world.
"This is the first time I've been happy with it," Joey Meyer said, referring to his second season as the Blue Demons' head coach. "Last year there was just too much hoopla. I'd have to interrupt practice every 15 minutes for this interview or that interview."
Today, there was more than a fair amount of attention generated at old Alumni Hall, where Meyer prepared De Paul for Saturday's game against Georgetown. In addition to local media, there was a contingent from NBC television, which is broadcasting the game nationally at 3:30 p.m.
Included in the group was former Marquette Coach Al McGuire, whose presence was enough to bring out Ray Meyer from the office at the far end of the building, far away from the bouncing balls.
The office's location was strategic, said Ray Meyer. "I don't really get down here much anymore. Watching practices . . . drives me crazy."
There was a time last season, said Joey Meyer, when his father's rather formidable shadow caused more than a little friction.
"He would walk onto the floor and I'd wonder what was going on, and then he couldn't understand my reaction," said Meyer, who still ranks 10th on the school's all-time scoring list. He played under his father before becoming his assistant for 11 years.
"It was a pressure situation anyway and then there was the father-son, old coach-new coach thing on top of that. Things are so much smoother now, I think my mom's passing away (Marge Meyer died this fall) had a lot to do with it. Dad isn't a great one-on-one, show-your-emotions type, but when it happened we really came together."
Now, Joey Meyer says all his attention is focused on coaching. The Blue Demons enter the game against Georgetown with a 6-0 record. Saturday's game is the second of three this weekend for De Paul. The Blue Demons defeated Northwestern, 70-67, Thursday and travel to Purdue on Monday.
"I told my wife that if we won all three she could buy anything she wanted," said Meyer. "That made her really happy. I had to tell her, 'Barbara, don't get so excited.' If we won all three I'd be shocked."
That's not to say that the coach expects this game to be his wallet's savior. Although he considers his team an underdog to Georgetown, he emphatically says, "We can beat them." His team is perhaps a little more confident. At the conclusion of today's practice, the players gathered at midcourt and yelled, "One, two, three, kill them!"
"They've got four -- no, seven -- perimeter guys that can just shoot the hell out of the basketball," Meyer said. "That and their overall quickness concerns me. It'll be interesting to see if our strength can negate that."
For that to happen, Meyer will have to get a better performance from Dallas Comegys than against Northwestern, when the junior forward was basically invisible. However, Ray Meyer believes the bright lights of television will bring out the best in De Paul's leading scorer (16 points per game).
"He makes me so mad when he doesn't play hard all the time," said Ray Meyer. "It makes me think that when he scratches his head all he gets are splinters."