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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • SIU Commentary: Watson, Hartzog know art of communication

  • SIU will name new track and field facilities after Hartzog this weekend
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  • Life is good. Make that GREAT!
    Outside of winning the lottery, which isn't going to happen being as though we don't play the game, how much better can it be than the last week or so . . . and including this weekend.
    College basketball at its finest, the NCAA quarterfinals last weekend and semis this weekend.
    For us, however, the icing on the cake was a three-hour session with long-time friend and former assistant basketball coach at SIU, Rodney Watson, and this weekend's reunion with even closer — and longer — friend, Lew Hartzog.
    We hooked up mid-week in Herrin with Rodney, who has been head coach at the University of Southern Indiana for the past four years, while the Hartzog get-together will be this weekend at SIU where officials will be officially dedicating and naming new track and field facilities in his honor.
    Watson and Hartzog are as basically different as night and day. With one exception. They both know how to communicate with and motivate young athletes to be successful.
    As one might expect, basketball dominated the conversation with Rodney. Watson has been successful at USI where he has won 96 games in his four years there, while, at the same time offering, "We've got to be better next year after losing in the second-round of this year's tournament.
    That is unacceptable at USI."
    In his long run at SIU, Watson served as an assistant to Rich Herrin, Bruce Weber, Matt Painter and Chris Lowery. He's the first to tell you how fortunate he was and how he learned from each of the former Saluki leaders in one way or another.
    We're not anticipating any of the same humbleness from Hartzog. When he arrived on SIU's campus from Northeast Louisiana in late-summer of 1960, his coaching style and beliefs were already well formed and, as everyone, absolutely everyone who knows Lew well, will tell you, there were few, if any, deviations. We know first-hand as we both began at SIU the same day.
    As diplomatic and willing to listen and reason with athletes as Watson is, Hartzog was the epitome of the opposite style. Fortunately Hartzog could always back up his beliefs with proven results. To say that Lew was somewhat demanding is an understatement.
    Hartzog wasted little time in establishing his style, his program as SIU.
    Example:
    In 1960, the season before Hartzog arrived, the Salukis competed in six dual meets, all with area schools and finished seventh in the seven-team conference meet while scoring just 13 2/3 points.
    The following season, Hartzog's first at SIU, the Salukis competed in just three dual meets, but added the Drake, Kansas and Oklahoma State Relays to their schedule. And, WON the conference meet by 14 points, more than they had scored the previous season. And, too, it's important to note that he did it with basically the same athletes.
    Page 2 of 2 - Yes, it'll be a fun weekend as we haven't seen the old-timer since presenting him for induction into the national track coaches hall of fame five years ago. We're betting he hasn't changed a lick.
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