Dennis Rodman’s College Coach Recalls Recruiting Him Over H-O-R-S-E

Written by on April 27, 2020

The phone calls from reporters and tv producers are extra sporadic now. However Lonn Reisman nonetheless hears from individuals who wish to know extra about Dennis Rodman, and that has been the case once more because of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part documentary series on Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls.

Two extra episodes aired on Sunday evening, and Rodman — Jordan’s teammate for 3 championship seasons — had a star flip in all his multicolored glory. For a sports-starved viewers, the series has supplied a reminder of Rodman’s basketball genius: half rebounding savant, half defensive menace, half provocateur.

“I give lots of credit score to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, particularly, as a result of Phil was a psychologist,” Reisman mentioned in a phone interview. “However what Dennis delivered to that staff was glue. He performed his function as arduous as anybody might probably play it.”

Reisman, 65, is the vice president for intercollegiate athletics at Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas. In 30 seasons as the lads’s basketball coach earlier than he was succeeded by his son in 2018, he received 654 video games. However Reisman additionally understands one thing else about his legacy: that it’s going to all the time be tied to Rodman.

“I’m pleased with him,” Reisman mentioned. “It’s a reasonably superb story.”

PictureDennis Rodman, during his years at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Credit score…Sporting Information, through Getty Pictures

In 1982, Reisman was an assistant coach at Southeastern Oklahoma State, an N.A.I.A. program in Durant, Okla., when he heard a few lanky ahead who was demolishing opponents for Cooke County School, a two-year faculty in Gainesville, Texas, that’s now known as North Central Texas School. Reisman made the drive south to soak up a observe, and that was when he noticed Rodman for the primary time.

“Oh, we in all probability can’t get this man,” Reisman recalled telling himself. “However you all the time dream about it. He was uncooked however very athletic and he had a motor that I had not seen.”

Just a few weeks later, Reisman returned to Cooke County to observe Rodman play in a recreation — or no less than that was the plan. Rodman was nowhere to be discovered. Reisman was knowledgeable that Rodman had left faculty and returned dwelling to Dallas. The issue for Reisman was that college officers, citing privateness points, declined to provide him Rodman’s cellphone quantity.

“So I stored calling the varsity,” Reisman mentioned, “and eventually, in the future, I obtained a scholar on the cellphone. I mentioned: ‘I actually need to speak to this younger man. We’re attempting to provide him a scholarship, and I feel it might be useful for his life.’ And he or she gave me his cellphone quantity. If you’re younger and also you’re a recruiter, persistence is the No. 1 factor you want.”

Reisman reached Rodman’s mom, Shirley, who invited him to Dallas. However when Reisman confirmed up at their condo, Rodman refused to go away his bed room. Reisman stored knocking and ready, knocking and ready. It will need to have grow to be evident to Rodman that this man was not going to go away him alone.

“He opened the door, and I don’t know what it was, however we simply had an prompt connection,” Reisman mentioned. “You’ve got that with some recruits.”

That very same afternoon, Reisman left to go again to Southeastern Oklahoma State — with Rodman driving shotgun. They wound up taking part in H-O-R-S-E within the faculty gymnasium, Reisman mentioned, then sat collectively within the bleachers for a quiet dialog. Reisman advised Rodman that he had an incredible quantity of expertise.

“Do you actually assume so?” Reisman recalled Rodman asking him.

Reisman quickly persuaded Rodman to stay round. After cluttering the field rating in his first recreation, Rodman advised Reisman that he hoped he had not disillusioned him.

“I hope you disappoint me each evening,” Reisman recalled telling him.

And when Reisman broke the information to Rodman that he had been named an N.A.I.A. all-American after his sophomore season — the primary of three straight picks — Rodman was stunned: What was an all-American? Reisman needed to clarify that it meant he was one of many high gamers within the nation.

Within the N.B.A., Rodman could possibly be maddening, distracting and exhausting for opponents and teammates alike. The ESPN documentary touched on the infamous midseason trip that Rodman took to Las Vegas, the place he appeared to bask in all the assorted excesses that befitted his playboy way of life whereas the Bulls plodded alongside with out him. However then he returned — miraculously — in tiptop form, in accordance with Jordan. It was as if Rodman’s Sin Metropolis sabbatical had by no means occurred. It was one other feat in a profession stuffed with them.

However it additionally served for instance of how Rodman’s eccentric personality typically overshadowed his greatness as a participant. And his greatness was the results of an strategy that ran counter to the favored narrative that he helped stoke: He labored extremely arduous. He was a blue-collar welder who merely dressed as if he had tickets to Comedian-Con.

When Rodman was taking part in for the Detroit Pistons, Reisman launched himself to Chuck Daly, the staff’s coach.

“Lonn,” Reisman recalled Daly telling him, “this man is as quick as a Ferrari and he by no means runs out of fuel.”

Coaches would inform Reisman about Rodman taking part in 40 minutes — after which driving an train bike for an hour after the win.

However Rodman was no basketball-playing robotic. He was altogether human, which was a part of his attraction. He would make errors. He would cry. A lot feeling all the time gave the impression to be simmering on the floor.

Even in retirement, Rodman has been uniquely unconventional — and no stranger to controversy. Reisman himself referenced among the issues that Rodman had executed “politically,” an indirect nod to Rodman’s friendship with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean chief. Rodman made a number of journeys to North Korea lately, promoting them as a manner of constructing diplomacy.

When studies surfaced final week that Kim was ailing, Rodman advised TMZ that he was praying for him.

Reisman has stored in contact with Rodman, although he might be robust to trace down.

“He doesn’t sit nonetheless, I promise you,” Reisman mentioned.

However Rodman all the time struck Reisman as somebody who cared: about individuals, about his mates. When Rodman was enshrined within the Basketball Corridor of Fame in 2011, Reisman was the first person he thanked.

“It introduced tears to my eyes,” Reisman mentioned, “that he hadn’t forgotten about me.”

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