STEPHENVILLE – The legacy of Lonn Reisman will forever be a part of Tarleton Athletics.
His name was added to the illustrious list of Tarleton greats Saturday night as the 30-year head men’s basketball coach was named the 169th member of the Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame in front of the largest crowd in Athletics Hall of Fame history at Wisdom Gym.
“In the modern era of Tarleton Athletics, there is nothing to rival Coach Reisman’s outstanding record of 654 wins,” said Dr. Lamar Johanson, chairman of the Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame committee. “Coach Reisman has built a basketball program that is recognized nationally and over his 30-year coaching career there has not been a single NCAA rules violation brought against his program. One would be hard-pressed to find anything that has brought greater recognition and positive publicity to Tarleton State University than Coach Reisman’s record and the success of his teams.
“He has been very successful in seeing his former players graduate and move along to be outstanding citizens and make great contributions to society,” Johanson continued. “With his induction into Tarleton’s Athletics Hall of Fame, this will provide an opportunity for former players to gather and celebrate Tarleton Basketball over the past thirty years and honor their former coach.”
Reisman, who stepped down from coaching and is now devoting 100-percent of his time as athletic director, finished his basketball coaching career with 691 career wins — 654 of them at Tarleton — which is the most wins by anyone in Tarleton history and, at the time of his retirement from coaching, the most wins of any active head coach in the state of Texas at any NCAA level. He’s one of 14 coaches at the Division I and II levels combined with more than 650 career wins and ranks within the top 15 in the country in winning percentage by a Division II head coach. His other 37 wins came in three seasons as the head coach of Connors Junior College and Trumann High School (Ark.).
When Reisman came to Tarleton in 1988, the Texans had one winning season in 27 years as a senior college. He since turned Tarleton into a national powerhouse.
Tarleton has been ranked No. 1 in the nation four times and is the only Lone Star Conference men’s basketball team in history to make four NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearances.
Before Reisman, Tarleton’s overall basketball record as a senior college was 300 games below .500. In 2014, he brought the Texans all the way back to even and beyond. It is now 834-759.
In his NCAA coaching career, Reisman and the Texans spent 128 weeks ranked in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) poll, including six full seasons ranked in the top 25. At one point, the Texans were ranked in the top 25 for 43 consecutive weeks. The Texans have spent 78 weeks in the top 10, 45 weeks in the top five, and nine weeks ranked the No. 1 team in the nation, which came in three seasons.
Reisman defined what it meant to have home court advantage by helping turn Wisdom Gym into one of the best collegiate basketball venues in NCAA Division II.
In his career in Wisdom Gym, he was 418-72 (.853). From 2001-2017, Reisman was 249-25 (.909) at home, including two perfect seasons. Only once during that stretch did Reisman ever lose more than two games at home. He had three perfect home records in his career, never losing more than six games, and never going below .500 in a season in Wisdom Gym.
Reisman was known for elite defensive teams. The Texans have been nationally ranked for defensive points allowed and defensive field goal percentage. The 2010-11 Texan defense might have been the best defensive team ever – at any level. Tarleton led all of NCAA Division I, II, III and Junior Colleges in defense by holding opponents to just 53.3 points per game. The 2011-12 Texans accomplished the same feat as the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation, holding teams to just 56.3 points per game.
This year, Reisman received one of the highest honors a coach can receive from the NABC. He was named the recipient of the Guardians of the Game Award for Leadership and was recognized at the 2018 NCAA Division I Final Four in San Antonio.
In Reisman’s first season as head coach in 1988, the Texans went 18-11 and began a stretch of four TIAA championships in six years and seven playoff appearances to go with four 20-win seasons.
In 1994-95, Tarleton made the move to the NCAA Division II ranks and Reisman’s legacy as a winner began to unfold.
For the next 22 years, Reisman controlled the LSC with a run of dominance never before seen in the league. Reisman never had a losing season and posted 14 20-win seasons, including 12 seasons with at least 24 wins. He won eight LSC championships and three LSC tournament championships. Reisman’s 10 tournament championship appearances rank second in LSC history and the Texans are 29-17 in the LSC tournament under Reisman, which is the third most tournament wins in LSC history.
Reisman went 225-109 in the LSC during his career. No other current head coach in LSC has 200 career wins and Reisman’s 654 career wins top all nine of the current LSC head coaches’ combined career win total (652).
He is a 13-time coach of the year recipient too. He won back-to-back TIAA District 8 Coach of the Year awards in his first two years at Tarleton. Reisman has won five LSC Coach of the Year honors, including three awards in 2004 with the TABC Small College Coach of the Year and NABC Regional Coach of the Year to go with the LSC award. In 2014, Reisman received the NCAA Regional Coach of the Year award and was a finalist for the Clarence “Big House” Gaines National Coach of the Year. He’s a three-time National Coach of the Week winner.
Reisman not only had LSC success, but regional success as well. Reisman and the Texans won four South Central Regional championships – the most in LSC history. The first regional title came in 2005, where the Texans went 25-9 and upset tournament host Texas A&M-Commerce to advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the first time in program history. The Texans then topped Cal Poly-Pomona to reach the NCAA Division Final Four.
The following year, Reisman and the Texans went back-to-back as South Central Regional champions, taking down Northwest Missouri State, 72-71, to claim the regional title in Bolivar, Missouri. In the early 2000’s, Reisman and the Texans won at least 25 games for five straight seasons, including a then-school record 29-4 in 2002-03.
Reisman’s success continued well into his second decade as head coach. The 2013-14 team started a program-best 18-0 en route to a 28-3 record and won the LSC regular season and tournament title. The .903 winning percentage was the highest single-season mark of his career and was the second time in his career that he won both the conference regular season and tournament championships.
The 2014-15 season was historic for Reisman and the Texans. They started 12-0 and went on to win the LSC championship with a 12-2 league mark. With a 27-3 record after the LSC tournament, the Texans earned the right to host the South Central Regional Tournament for the fourth time in program history.
The Texans swept their way through the South Central Region and with a thrilling 66-64 win over Angelo State, Reisman won the regional title in Wisdom Gym for the first time ever. The Texans went to Evansville, Indiana and throttled Mount Olive 77-59 in the Elite Eight to advance to the Final Four for the second time in program history. Reisman and the Texans ended the season with a school record 31 wins with just four losses.
For the second time in his career, Reisman’s Texans went back-to-back as South Central Region champions, claiming the 2016 regional title for his fourth regional championship. As the No. 4 seed in the region, the Texans went to Wichita Falls, home of rival Midwestern State, and for the second straight year they took down Angelo State in the regional final to advance to the Elite Eight.
Reisman coached more than 25 players that went on to have professional basketball careers in the NBA D-League and overseas. Although he didn’t play at Tarleton, Reisman is widely known for recruiting and coaching Dennis Rodman, who began his NBA Hall of Fame speech by mentioning and thanking Reisman for making him the player he was.
Reisman coached 13 All-America selections and 20 Daktronics/D2CCA all-region selections, including 12 first-teamers and one regional player of the year. In the LSC, Reisman had four LSC Players of the Year and seven LSC Defensive Players of the Year. He coached four LSC freshman of the year and three LSC newcomers of the year. He had 27 players receive first-team all-conference and 14 players named second team.
His work also extended into the classroom, coaching a two-time LSC Academic Player of the Year, three LSC scholar-athlete winners and nine players on the LSC academic all-conference team.
Reisman has been a part of the Stephenville community for more than 30 years. He resides in town with his wife, Misti. He has five children, Chris, Lonna, Blaine, Davin and Blake; and nine grandchildren and counting.