Today, Lonn Reisman is the vice chairman for intercollegiate athletics at Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas. However, his name will forever be linked with one of the NBA’s most colorful personas – Dennis Rodman.
I’m proud of him. It’s a pretty amazing story.Lonn Reisman, NY Times
The story of how Reisman discovered Rodman is also one to be amazed by. It took place in ’82, while Lonn was an assistant coach at Southeastern Oklahoma State, an N.A.I.A. program in Durant, Oklahoma. By that time, Dennis was demolishing opponents for Cooke County College, a two-year faculty in Gainesville, Texas. After hearing about him, Reisman went to see Rodman play. “Oh, we probably can’t get this guy,” Reisman recalled telling himself. “But you always dream about it. He was raw but very athletic and he had a motor that I had not seen.”
Weeks later, Lonn made another trip to Cooke County to see Dennis in action once again. But the young prospect was nowhere to be found. Reisman was informed that Rodman flunked out due to poor academic performance, after averaging 17.6 points and 13.3 rebounds in a single semester he had spent there. The downside for Reisman was that faculty members refused to give him Rodman’s contact information, meaning that getting ahold of him became that much harder after Dennis decided to return home to Dallas. But Lonn wasn’t the one to stop trying.
After days of calling the school, Reisman got a student on the phone, and she agreed to give him Rodman’s phone number. Lonn reached his mother Shirley, and she invited him over to pitch the idea to Dennis in person. After an excessive effort of getting him out of his room, Reinman and Dennis met for the first time.
He opened the door, and I don’t know what it was, but we just had an instant connection. You have that with some recruits.Lonn Reisman, NY Times
That same day, the two of them were on their way to Southeastern Oklahoma State. They wound up playing the game of H-O-R-S-E within the faculty gymnasium, after which Reisman persuaded Dennis to entrust his basketball gifts to a program he was a crucial part of.
Almost three decades later, during Rodman’s Hall of Fame speech, Lonn Reisman was the first person he thanked. “It brought tears to my eyes,” Reisman recalled, “that he hadn’t forgotten about me.” It just validated Lonn’s first impression of Dennis. He had seen him as a humble individual and someone who cared about people around him. Rodman thanking him on basketball’s biggest stage was Reisman’s proof he was right all along.