Coach Dez Merriweather's Legacy

Desmond Merriweather was just another middle school basketball coach… one who made national headlines for his work with inner-city children in Memphis, Tennessee.

In his work coaching Memphis middle school students, Merriweather made a point to teach them the value of hard work and perseverance. "You could see the kind of respect he commanded," said a fellow coach. "In timeouts, the players would be hanging on his every word."

But then a day came when Coach Merriweather couldn't work. Battling colon cancer, he was hospitalized for an extended period. A childhood friend stepped up to help Merriweather and his team: former NBA star Penny Hardaway, who filled in for Merriweather when he couldn't be there with the team. 

Hardaway, who grew up without a father, became a surrogate dad to the players, telling them "to believe in yourself and believe in what you're doing." One of the players was Coach Merriweather's son Nick.

Together Hardaway and Merriweather inspired the team and coached them to a championship.

With just over three minutes left in the state championship, Coach Penny Hardaway called a timeout. He didn't like what he was seeing. Down by 15 points, his middle schoolers were quitting. It stood against everything he had instilled in them: Don't use the inner city as an excuse to fail... Read more

Coach Merriweather died Feb. 8, 2015, at age 41, but his influence will forever be felt by the students he and Hardaway helped, and his legacy will live on his son.

Read tributes to Coach Merriweather