One of Tech's basketball legends, Lorenzo Coleman passes away at 38

One of Tech's basketball legends, Lorenzo Coleman passes away at 38

By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. --Maybe it’s because I was in Eblen Center, getting ready for a Sunday afternoon basketball game, when I heard the news. The “Temple of Doom” was Lorenzo Coleman’s palace, where he swatted away opponents shots and shattered the glass backboard.

So, when they told me the big man had died Sunday morning, it really got to me. He was only 38 years old. I haven’t seen him since he played four seasons for coach Frank Harrell and the Golden Eagles (1993-1997), so I only remember him as the picture of health as a young, college student-athlete.

Coleman died Sunday in Atlanta after suffering an aortic aneurysm a couple of weeks ago. 

The Coleman family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Johnny Donnelly Scholarship Endowment in Lorenzo name. Visitation is Friday from 12 to 7 p.m. at Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home, 4347 Flat Shoals Parkway, Decatur, Ga. Lorenzo's funeral will be Saturday at 11 a.m. at New Life Church, 3592 Flat Shoals Road in Decatur.

He was so dominant as a defender that in 1995 I suggested painting the lanes in Eblen Center with the words “Zo Zone” in recognition of his prowess. Painted or not, I can’t look at the lanes in the arena now without picturing Lorenzo tipping, blocking, swatting, and deflecting shots in the middle.

Or the night he slammed one down at the basket near the tunnel, and down came the entire backboard, shattering into hundreds of shards of thick glass. Athletics actually put the glass into baggies and distributed them as a memory to fans who witnessed the first shattered backboard in the building.

I had one of those baggies, but I cleaned out a desk and threw it away a few years ago. I sure wish I still had it now.

Just like I wish I had paid more attention to Lorenzo’s frequent posts on Facebook. After his death, I went to his page and saw dozens and dozens of comments from friends and former teammates, all with the same thoughts. After expressing their prayers and thoughts, all of those posts talked about what a kind-hearted, gentle person he was.

I looked through some of the photos he had on Facebook. There were pictures of his wife and child, and pictures of Lorenzo taking time to visit with fans while he played for teams around the world.

And it hit me that we were blessed to have Lorenzo on the Golden Eagle roster for four years.

Lorenzo is ours at Tennessee Tech, but he is also a player known in towns around the world, for wherever he played, he was a favorite of the crowds. Not because he towered over the fans, but because he humbled himself and spent time with the fans. He was never the “big man on campus” in terms of acting like a star. He was a big man on the Tech campus in size, and he spent his time in classrooms working alongside classmates, sitting with others in the cafeteria, and visiting with fans whenever they approached.

Looking at Lorenzo’s Tech career in numbers, he played in 113 games between 1993 and 1997, serving as team co-captain (with Chris Turner and Ryan Black) in his senior season of 1996-97.

He was chosen as the team MVP in 1995 and 1997, and was an all-region selection in 1997. He was named to the all-OVC team in his sophomore and senior seasons, and was on the OVC all-tournament team in 1997. As a freshman, he was named to the OVC all-newcomer team, and twice was voted the winner of the team’s Most Improved Player award.

He kept working hard throughout his career, and was also named Most Improved Player as a senior in 1997.

Lorenzo finished with 1,365 career points, and currently ranks 11th all-time in points. He was eighth when his career ended. He is second all-time in rebounds with 1,001 and first in blocked shots with 439. His career field goal mark of 60.1 percent ranked second when he left Tech, and is still fourth all-time. Only 12 players in Tech history have played more games the Lorenzo Coleman.

He was in a trio that made up the most prolific season of shot blockers in NCAA history, battling throughout the 1996-97 season with Adonal Foyle of Colgate and Tim Duncan of Wake Forest, taking turns leading the nation from week to week. He finished the year with 437 career blocked shots in 113 games, which ranked fourth in history at that time.

The only players who finished that year ranked above Coleman in career blocks were Foyle with 492 and Duncan with 481, and Alonzo Mourning with 453. Since then, eight other players have surpassed Coleman's total, but the former Golden Eagle still ranks 12th all-time in career blocks.

In the 2001 NBDL Supplemental Draft, Lorenzo was drafted first overall by the Roanoke Dazzle, where his field goal percentage of 60.6 led the league. His 67 blocks were good enough for fourth in the league and his block percentage of 6.5 ranked third. He also finished in the top 10 of the league in blocks per game (fifth with 1.5), total rebound percentage (seventh with 16.2), and defensive rebound percentage (ninth with 22.0).

Prior to the draft, Lorenzo spent time in preseason camps with both the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets.

His love for the game can never be denied as Lorenzo played several years overseas with teams from Syria, China, Bulgaria, the Philippines, a USA-Entertainment team, and, most recently, a team from Uruguay. He also played one season with the Harlem Globetrotters in 2002.

He was never to shy to give back to the community, spending time with kids in numerous camps, including the 2nd Annual Noble Star Basketball Camp as recent as 2011. In March of 2002, Lorenzo was named the High Flyer of the Week, presented by US Airways, for his dedication to the community of Roanoke. He went on several school visits and served more than 300 meals and a local rescue mission while also participating in events with the Mill Mountain Zoo and Knights of Columbus youth basketball tournament.

All-Time Career Blocked Shots Leaders / NCAA Division I

Jarvis Varnado
Mississippi State
First Yr    
Final Yr    
Wojciech Myrda C Louisiana–Monroe 1998 2002 115 535
Adonal Foyle C Colgate 1994 1997 87 492
Tim Duncan C Wake Forest 1993 1997 128 481
William Mosley C Northwestern State 2008 2012 124 456
Alonzo Mourning C Georgetown 1988 1992 120 453
Tarvis Williams F/C Hampton 1997 2001 114 452
Ken Johnson C Ohio State 1997 2001 127 444
Shawn James F Northeastern /
2004 2008 83 443
Deng Gai F Fairfield 2001 2005 100 442
Emeka Okafor C Connecticut 2001 2004 103 441
Lorenzo Coleman C Tennessee Tech 1993 1997 113 437