Lonn Reisman has been in this business more than 30 years, 29 as a head coach and 28 of those at Tarleton State University.
Reisman has taken a program that had just one winning season in 27 years of senior college basketball, and built it to the point most would find it absurd to even discuss the Tarleton men posting a losing mark.
He has won regional titles in the NCAA and the NAIA, and conference titles in both, as well. Reisman has more than 600 wins at Tarleton, has steadily graduated an average of two seniors a year (this isn’t football, you normally only have 2-4 seniors in basketball) and has seen many a young man go on to great things.
Great career things, not just basketball things.
Mark Smith is an attorney in California. Collat Johnson a firefighter in Dallas, Andy Hudson a principal in Crowley and Cornell Jones manages a large shipping/warehouse operation in the Metroplex.
Those are just a few quick examples, none of them basketball related. If we got into lists of guys who have gone on to successful coaching careers or are playing overseas, we’d be here longer than you’re willing to remain interested in this column.
The bottom line – Reisman has built a program by doing things the right way. There have been no shortcuts. It’s taken every last bit of 28 years of work to build Tarleton into the consistent force on the hardwood that it is today, and it takes the same work ethic every day to keep the Texans at that level in a Lone Star Conference race jam-packed with talent, depth and parity the likes of which Reisman himself says he’s never seen in this league.
Reisman has proven throughout those 28 years he can make tough personnel decisions when the behavior of young men force his hand.
In 2004, while ranked No. 1 in the nation and trailing at halftime of a conference tournament semifinal, Reisman, right at half court in front of a full-house crowd at Wisdom Gym, removed from his team a center who went on to play in the NBA Development League.
In 2012, it was Reisman himself who turned over evidence to Tarleton police in a burglary case against one of his players. Yeah, point and snicker all you want, but please, someone introduce me to the 30-year college coach who hasn’t had to deal with such matters.
And we all remember last year. Reisman removed his second leading scorer just two games before the conference tournament and still advanced to the Elite Eight and national semifinals.
As this week has gone on, and Reisman has been questioned publicly regarding the suspension of Malcolm Hamilton and the re-scheduling of a game that was little more than a light workout Wednesday, I’ve stopped to ask myself one important question and rebuke myself for one lousy misstep on my own part.
The question – Would Lonn Reisman really spit in the face of the LSC and rival coaches and athletic directors just so Malcolm Hamilton can play against A&M-Commerce?
Perhaps we should review. Hamilton picked up his third technical foul of the season while jawing back and forth with West Texas A&M star David Chavlovich last Saturday in Canyon. By rule, the third tech brings a one game suspension from the LSC. Therefore, no Hamilton, an 11 point, six rebound guy for the Texans, against A&M-Commerce.
But wait, simple solution. Just move the Southwestern Adventist game from February 22 to Wednesday, win that one without Hamilton and he’s back on Saturday.
But here comes the rebuke – Did any of us (sports writers) stop and ask if that’s what is going on here?
I blame myself for the fallout that ensued, as I myself assumed that a one-game suspension from the league meant a one-game suspension for Hamilton.
I should have known better. This is the coach and athletic director that holds his student-athletes to stricter standards than the NCAA on almost every front.
I’m sorry, coach. I should have asked. Next time I will.
Turns out Tarleton assistant athletic director Troy Jones can produce more than 40 pages of phone records proving he was contacting other coaches in search of games for Wednesday, and that such search began well before Hamilton opened his mouth and picked up tech No. 3.
Turns out, I should have asked. Plain and simple.
I don’t know when exactly Reisman decided to add a second game to the suspension of Hamilton, but the bottom line is, it’s been done, and he won’t play Saturday against A&M-Commerce.
Some will forever say Reisman just caved to questions from LSC officials, other coaches and the media concerning the added game and if it was simply to avoid missing Hamilton in an LSC contest.
What I do know is Reisman has spent 28 years building this program. Perhaps he deserves a couple days to make an important decision regarding a key player.
Did you really think by the time the dust cleared and all Saturday’s games were final that Reisman would have finished the day having risked the image of everything he spent 28 years building over one single player who may or may not have made an overwhelming impact in one single game?
Maybe the questions raised did cause the veteran coach to stop and re-evaluate the situation. Regardless, a tip of the hat to Reisman for doing what he believes is best no matter what the rest of us think.
And a self-scolding to me for not asking the question simple question – Is Hamilton suspended just the one game from the league, or more? Seems like a pretty simple question to ask.
We assumed Malcolm Hamilton would be suspended the one game required by the LSC. Then we assumed Reisman simply found a loophole.
But Lonn Reisman doesn’t do loopholes or short cuts. He’s spent 28 years proving as such.
I think he will survive 40 minutes in the absence of one single player.