By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 11, 2016) — Lonn Reisman wasn’t pacing or scowling, and he sure wasn’t doing any of his trademark foot stomping.
But Reisman didn’t need to stomp his foot to motivate his team. His presence was inspiration enough.
And that’s good. Because stomping his food and getting intense was the last thing Reisman was thinking of at Wisdom Gym Tuesday. It was just a laid back team media and photo day, for one, and he is recovering from successful surgery on September 27 to remove prostate cancer for another.
The latter, of course, is the primary reason. But Reisman says he is recovering well and plans to make his public debut when his 2016-17 Texans do at Midnight Madness Friday.
“I am recovering, getting better every day and just thanking the Lord to be here,” said Reisman, as he watched his team enjoy posing for stylish photos to be cut out and used in their profiles in the men’s basketball media guide. “I have heard from so many people, and there are so many others I don’t even know who are supporting me and praying for me, and I wish I could take the time to tell everyone of them how appreciative I am. I can feel their love and support and it has helped me through this more than I have the words to express.”
Reisman wanted to focus more on his basketball team than on his own health. It’s his 29th team at Tarleton State.
“Twenty-nine years, that’s hard to believe,” he said. “This is always an exciting time, seeing how so many new and returning players work together to gel into a team, a functional unit that works together toward a common goal. What is that goal? It’s simple, I’ve never been one to write goals down on the white board in the locker room because I have the same goal every day when we go to work – just to get better. Keep getting better every day and you have the opportunity to get where you want in the end.”
But his players are just pleased to have their leader back with them for a new beginning, and at least one says a big positive has come from Reisman’s health scare.
“This has brought us closer together as a team,” says center Romond Jenkins, one of two starters back from Tarleton’s second straight South Central Region championship team. “We know how blessed we are to have him here.”
Combo guard Chantz Chambers, the other returning starter, says the presence of Reisman just calms the team.
“Our other coaches are great, too, but we know he’s our leader,” Chambers said. “Coach Reisman is the one whose been here so long and done it all, we know we can count on him in any situation and he knows what to do, whether its on the court or in life. I believe if we listen to Coach and do everything he tells us, we can succeed no matter what it is we are doing.”
It’s not just seniors like Jenkins and Chambers who feel that way, but young guys, too, like highly-heralded redshirt freshman Josh Hawley.
“It was a real wake up call, because for me, personally, I’ve never seen someone deal with that like he has, and seeing him back out here today, I think it’s good for everyone,” Hawley said. “It definitely perked us all up to see him getting better and doing good.”
Reisman’s son, Chris Reisman, doubles as his associate head coach. He’s used to running the day-to-day operations of the program while his father also serves as athletic director, but most days, Dad is just a flight of stairs and a trip down a couple Wisdom Gym hallways away. But obviously, running the program for a couple weeks without the veteran coach’s presence was secondary to concerns for his father’s health.
“We’re glad to have him here, and of course, we’re especially glad to have him in our family, because he’s always been a great father and grandfather, someone I’ve really looked up to and tried to emulate my whole life,” Chris Reisman said. “Dad, more than anything is just a great leader. He’s a great leader for us as a family and for our basketball family.”
With more than 600 career victories at Tarleton, Lonn Reisman is the winningest active college coach in Texas, at any level. And as he turns his attention to his latest team, he does so with a new perspective – and a second lease – on life.
“When you go through something like this it definitely changes your perspective on things and on life in general,” Reisman said. “I have been blessed with so much in this life and am so thankful for it. I have a wonderful family, the best anyone could ask for. Then you have our basketball program and this university and everyone who has supported it, who has supported me. They are the best extended family anyone could ask for. I’m just very blessed, and very thankful.”