Coaching — regardless of the sport or the level of the sport — is often viewed by fans and audiences with a black and white lens. Either you win or you lose.
Paris native and Paris High School graduate Rodney Watson, the head men’s basketball coach for the University of Southern Indiana, has found much greater things throughout his coaching career besides just winning games.
“This has been such an outstanding career for me and it has really been a dream come true,” Watson said. “I have been able to do what I wanted to on the court while also making an impact in my athlete’s lives.”
Watson has found success at USI, carrying a record of 203-65 in his ninth season with the Screaming Eagles. He has managed to ascend to a national ranking as high as second in Division II basketball (2010) and has qualified for multiple appearances in the Division II national tournament.
“It has been great to be part of such an outstanding program and USI is such a great place,” Watson said. “This is an incredible school and basketball program.”
In his time at USI, Watson has coached seven All-Americans and 15 players who went on to play basketball at a professional level.
Before making his mark at USI though, Watson learned the ropes at Southern Illinois University as an assistant coach under head coaches Rich Herrin, Bruce Weber, Matt Painter and Chris Lowery. Watson spent 21 years with the Salukis and helped lead the team to 11 conference championships and nine NCAA tournament appearances.
Prior to his stint at SIU, Watson started his coaching coaching at Coulterville High School in Coulterville, Ill. In his second year with the school, Watson was able to lead his team to the school’s first regional championship in program history.
Despite the success that Watson has found throughout his coaching career, Watson says none of it would have been possible without the support of his wife, Carol, and four children, Ashley, Zachary, Olivia and Blake.
“There were times coaching that I couldn’t see my family all the time and I would be coming back on weekends,” Watson said. “It’s a two-way street and the support that I got from my wife was critical to where I am today.”
With love and support being such a key consistency through his career, Watson is extremely aware consistency is not the same in other aspects of the job.
The Eastern Illinois University graduate believes the rise of social media and travel sports have caused the biggest changes in athletics.
“Social media is a blessing and a curse,” Watson said. “Coaches and parents can stream games now and that is awesome. On the other side, social media has resulted in less communication with people and more with a phone.”
Travel sports teams have been another key citation from Watson, claiming players these days are losing out on valuable life lessons.
Watson remembers his time on a concrete court at Crestwood School in Paris as a sixth-grade. There and on the playgrounds of the community, he learned to never take his eye off the ball and to be physically and mentally tough.
“So many kids are playing travel basketball and everything is organized and paid for,” Watson said. “Pick-up basketball games are where I learned so much and I think that it is an important part of the culture of the sport.”
Halfway through the 2018-19 season, Watson is in pursuit of another winning season for the Screaming Eagles. With so much success in his life, Watson has not forgotten his roots in Paris.
“The schools in Paris are great and so are the people,” Watson said. “The lessons that I learned there will be with me for the rest of my life.”