By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE(March 23, 2018) — Lonn Reisman, fifth in wins among active head coaches in all of Division II men’s basketball, stepped down Friday following 30 seasons at Tarleton State.
After 654 wins, four NCAA regional championships, seven Lone Star Conference league-wide or division titles, three LSC tournament titles and 13 coach of the year awards, Reisman turned the reins of the basketball program over to his son, Chris Reisman, who has been associate head coach the past 12 years.
Lonn Reisman first reported for duty as head basketball coach on May 1, 1988, and five years later also became athletic director, a title he is retaining.
Chris Reisman has been part of more than 400 wins as a coach at Tarleton, having run the full gauntlet of the program from point guard to student assistant, graduate assistant, full-time assistant and since May 27, 2006, associate head coach.
His new title was announced in a press conference at Wisdom Gym Friday morning led by university president Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio and vice president Dr. Rick Richardson.
Lonn Reisman calls it natural progression, but while that may be true of the coaching change, there is nothing natural about the transformation he brought to Tarleton basketball.
When he took over the Texans had just one winning season in 27 years as a senior college, and that was in the non-scholarship level of NAIA. There was no Texan Club, the official booster club of Tarleton athletics the elder Reisman and several pivotal community volunteers established in the early 1990s.
What he leaves his son is a program that has boasted a winning record 27 of the past 30 years, 20 wins or more 18 times during that stretch and appearances in 14 of the last 17 NCAA South Central Region Championship tournaments including eight straight before missing the top eight by one spot in his final season.
With four starters and the top two role players off the bench set to return in 2018-19, the elder Reisman could have held out another year in an attempt to finish on a high note. Among his reasons for stepping down now, however, was allowing his son to begin his head coaching career with such talent and experience.
Replacing Lonn Reisman will be no easy task, even for someone as ingrained in the program as Chris.
The elder Reisman won regional championships to advance to the Elite Eight in 2005, 2006, 2015 and 2016. His teams won their national quarterfinal contests to reach the final four in 2005 and 2015.
Chris Reisman was on staff for all those accomplishments, and was also assisting his father when Tarleton was ranked No. 1 nationally in the Division II coaches poll for eight weeks 2003 and 2004 . That included six consecutive weeks atop the rankings in 2004 when Tarleton won its first LSC tournament title, hosted its second regional after firs earning the bid for the South Central in 2003 and won a game in the tournament before being upset by Drury (Mo.) in overtime in a regional semifinal.
Tarleton broke through in its fourth consecutive regional tournament appearance in 2005, upsetting top seed and host Texas A&M-Commerce in the regional final. A year later the tournament was hosted in Bolivar, Missouri by Southwest Baptist and Tarleton repeated as regional champs when Derek Atwood tipped in an offensive rebound just before the buzzer to to beat Northwest Missouri State in the final.
It was nine years later that Tarleton next won a regional title, though they were close in 2008. Tarleton held a double-digit second-half lead in the regional final only to see Central Oklahoma, featuring star Sam Belt and Tarleton-killer Eric Cazenave, come all the way back. Cazenave was on the money with 3 from the top of the key to give UCO the lead with four seconds remaining and Tarleton missed a 40 footer at the buzzer.
The fourth regional in Stephenville was finally won by the Texans in 2015, and Reisman labels it one of the most rewarding victories of his career. After sailing through the initial two rounds, Tarleton won the final 68-66 over an Angelo State team coached by current Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard and featuring a bevy of talented Division I transfers.
The most recent regional title came in Wichita Falls, as the Texans won a tournament hosted at D.L. Ligon Coliseum, home of arch-rival Midwestern State. The top-seeded Mustangs were upset in the first round by Lubbock Christian. The final was a rematch from 2015, with Tarleton edging ASU 77-72.
Since first reaching the regional tournament in 2002, Tarleton has only missed it in 2007, 2009 and 2018.
Other than perhaps loyalty, Chris Reisman has been praised most by his father for time management, game preparation and attention to detail . He has also pulled in a plethora of talented recruits through the years, and as associate head coach helped the staff land many others.
Chris has had opportunities to leave Tarleton, most notably when past Tarleton player and assistant coach Jason Hooten was promoted from assistant coach to head coach at Division I mid-major Sam Houston State. Hooten quickly offered the younger Reisman his assistant coach position, and Chris came very close to leaving for Huntsville.
Hooten continues to praise Chris today. Dr. Dottavio announced he communicated with Hooten, who said Chris is absolutely the right man to lead the basketball team at his alma mater.
Both Reismans addressed the audience of 300-plus, each receiving a standing ovation. Lonn Reisman said he was shocked by the turnout, especially with the university not announcing the reason for the press conference.
Chris Reisman plans to move forward with current assistant coaches Rodney McFadden and Chris ‘TD’ Harrell remaining in place. The new head coach recruiting is currently the top priority with campus visits beginning in April. Tarleton lost two seniors and reportedly has four scholarships available as two players were cut during this past season.
Lonn Reisman said:
-I could kind of feel that it was time for the past month and the more we evaluated it the more I realized that my original gut feeling was correct, that it is time. I’ve got a full plate as athletic director with the big goals we have set for the department, and it wouldn’t be fair to Chris, the staff or the team to still try and be head coach, but not be fully focused non them and on what we need to be successful. And, let’s face it, Chris is ready. He’s waited long enough. In fact, he’s been ready.This is just kind of a natural progression, and I’m very proud that we were able to develop the program and him and our staff in a manner that made it this way.
-I’ve been doing this 30 years. Who stays at the same job 30 years anymore? I’s a wonder Chris stuck round as long as he has waiting for this opportunity. I’m glad he did because now I can be fuly confiden that I’m placing the men’s basktball program in capable hands.
-I was stunned to see this many people, especially so mny past players who took off work and traveled, some of them a great distance, to be here. We know the reserved seating section holds 244 (it was virtually full), and however many chairs we had set up down here (80), that’s 300 people (plus the standing room crowd at the east end of the court). I’m overwhelmed emotionally to see this many people here, but that is a big reason we have been so successful. We hae achieved what we havee in part because we have great suport from the university and our fans.
Chris Reisman said:
-The big thing for me is I can’t try to be my father, I can only be me. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to use everything I’ve learned from him, but I defintitely have to put my own signature on things while maintaining the level of toughness and intensity that dad always brought out in his teams. Things like hat that make up the foundation this program is built on and the pillars that keep it standing, those we will try to never let change.
-It’s an exciting time for us. Any new head coach would be excited to start their career with the core group of players that we have coming back. Now if we can just get some recruits too once in and develop around them.
-I used to bring recruits in and one of the first things I would show them this a video of Dennis Rodman thanking dad for helping him become the player that he ultimately was, and then Roy Williams would be next with a great testimonial to him. I told dad the other night, now I can’t really use those anymore, so I have to adapt my recruiting pitch some.
-I am going continue to take great pride in how I sell this university to young men we recruit and to their families and I wil lcontinue to take grea pride inn how I represent his university. I always have, becasue I am passionate about Tarleton and everything it has meant to me and for this unbelievable opportunity. It really is a dream come true.
President Dr. F.D Dominic Dottavio said:
-We needed a coach, someone who understands and is capable of meeting the high expectations that have been placed on this program. Beyond that, we needed a leader who understands and appreciates the core values and who possesses a great passion for instilling and nurturing those values in the young men who play for them. Obviously we didn’t not have took far, as I think anyone who knows Chris very well and who understands that job description will say he’s the perfect person for the job.
-Lonn Reisman built an extraordinary basketball program, certainly taking it to unprecedent heights and also constructing it in a manner conducive to continued success after his time as head coach. But what I’m most proud of is the way he did it, the character he demanded be shown by the men who played for him and hthe ay he helped to develop them into men ready to go out and successfully serve their families and communities.
Past players said:
-He was a father figure, for sure. He takes care of his players, and the ones who give back the same effort he puts into them, he continues to look after them long after they are done paying at Tarleton. Coach Reisman always worked us hard, bu he was always fair and the reward was always worth more than the work we put in. – DANNY JONES, 2001-02 – 2002-03 (selected for induction into Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame later this spring)
-Coach is the epitome of a father figure. He was hard on me, but it was out of love, because he was working to make a man out of me. I grew up playing for Coach Reisman, and even now when I go into work each day a lot of the characteristics I use come from him. – DEREK ATWOOD, 2003-04 – 2005-06
-Everything I learned playing for Coach Reisman I tried to pass on wherever I was coaching, whether it as a head coach at East Central (Okla.) or Ranger College (Juco), or an assistant coach at McNeese State (La.) or Montana-Misoula, I knew the fundamentals and the values taught by Coach Reisman would work everywhere. I’m blessed to have gotten to come back here, and now to have an opportunity to work with Coach Chris, who obviously is the right person for the job. I am excited to fulfill my role in helping us be successful and hopefully bringing a national championship home to Tarleton very soon. – RODNEY MCCONNELL – Player 1998-2000, Assistant Coach 2001-02, Assistant Coach 2017-18 – current
-That old man, I thought he was just going to coach forever (laugh). Coach Reisman knows what buttons to push, when to push them and how to get the best out of his players. The lessons he teaches you for life are invaluable, and obviously the lessons the teaches about basketball work, too. I’ just thankful for him helping me and my teammates achieve what some thought wasn’t achievable and getting these rings. – Michael Hardge – 2012-13 – 2015-16 (starting point guard for back-to-back regional champions)