Coaching basketball isn’t the only way McKendree’s Statham gets his work in

With 1,088 wins in the last 49 seasons as the legendary men’s basketball coach at McKendree University in Lebanon, Harry Statham hasn’t spent all his time in a gym just sitting on a chair.

The 78-year-old Statham has stayed fit and trim for decades and still looks far younger than his birth certificate indicates.

“I think you have to be aware of what can happen to you,” Statham said. “You look around and see people you grew up with or that you know and see what happens to other people. It’s taking care of yourself with a proper diet, exercise, regular exercise and conditioning and mental health.

“You’ve got to think positive and stay busy.”

Statham is around young people all the time as an NCAA Division II basketball coach, whether he’s coaching the Bearcats or recruiting prospective high school players.

That might help keep him young at heart, but one of the nation’s all-time college basketball victory leaders says there’s no substitute for a healthy lifestyle.

“You can talk the game or you can do it,” he said. “If you aren’t careful and step away, pretty soon you lose the routine and fall behind and you get heavy.

“It’s an ongoing thing. You don’t do it by season or by month, it’s year-long.”

Statham got some rather futuristic advice in the early days of his coaching career.

“A guy told me once that when you start to coach, you need to quit playing the game and work on coaching yourself,” said Statham, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs himself every morning to make sure he’s around the 200-pound mark.

Statham’s fitness regimen include free weights twice a week and five days of cardio exercise a week using an elliptical machine.

While he still follows the obituaries both here in the metro-east and back home in his native Brookport near the Illinois-Kentucky border, he’s doing his best to stay out of them.

“I’ve got some good buddies back home where I grew up with and it’s kind of a joke,” Statham said. “We’ll call and say ‘Who’s passed away now?’ that kind of thing. It makes you a little bit more aware of taking care of yourself.

“I’ve been very fortunate.”

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at or 618-239-2454. Follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders.