Lou Watson

Photo: IU Archives

Louis “Lou” Watson was a former Indiana Hoosier basketball player and Indiana University basketball coach. Watson played as a guard for the Hoosiers between 1947 and 1950. He was the team’s leading scorer and he was named on the first-team All-Big Ten in the 1940-1950 season. In 1966, he became Indiana University’s head coach and led the Hoosiers to a Big Ten co-championship in 1967. His overall record as a head coach at Indiana was 62-60. In 1971, he became a special assistant to the athletic director and helped hire Bob Knight as a coach for the Hoosiers. Watson passed away at the age of 88 in 2012 in Fairfax, Virginia.

  • Name: Louis C. Watson
  • Position: Point Guard
  • Nationality: USA
  • Age: 88 years old
  • Birthday: August 31, 1924
  • Deceased: May 24, 2012
  • Hometown: Jeffersonville, Indiana
  • High School: Jeffersonville High School (Jeffersonville, Indiana)
  • Height: 6’5″ (195cm)
  • Seasons as a Player: 3 (1947-1948, 1948-1949, 1949-1950)
  • Seasons as a Head Coach: 6 (1965-1966, 1966-1967, 1967-1968, 1968-1969, 1969-1970, 1970-1971)
  • Overall Coaching Record: 62-60 (0.508)
  • Jersey: #6

Awards and Accoldates

  • 1950 Indiana University Leading Scorer
  • 1950 First Team All-Big Ten
  • 2x Winner of the Balfour Award
  • 1967 Big Ten Co-Champions
  • 1983 Inducted to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame
  • 1989 Inducted to the IU Athletics Hall of Fame

Lou Watson’s Seasons with the Hoosiers as a Player

1946-1947 Indiana Basketball Season
Branch McCracken (6th Season)
20-3 (9-3 Big Ten)
🥉 3rd Place Big Nine

1947-1948 Indiana Basketball Season
Branch McCracken (7th Season) 8-12 (3-9 Big Nine)
8th Place Big Ten
1948-1949 Indiana Basketball Season
Branch McCracken (8th Season) 14-8 (6-6 Big Nine)
4th Place Big Ten
1949-1950 Indiana Basketball Season
Branch McCracken (9th Season) 17-5 (7-5 Big Ten)
🥉 3rd Place Big Ten

Lou Watson’s Indiana University Career Statistics

Season G FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% PF PTS
1946-1947 17 43 26 112
1947-1948 16 70 251 0.279 33 51 0.647 47 170
1948-1949 22 80 278 0.288 56 88 0.636 65 216
1949-1950 21 102 325 0.314 52 94 0.553 56 256
Career 76 295 854 0.295 167 233 0.605 168 757

Lou Watson’s High School and Navy Service

Lou Watson was a graduate of Jeffersonville High School in 1943. At Jeffersonville, Lou Watson was a four-year varsity. He was a three-time all section and all-regional player and broke scoring records along the way. Due to World War II, Lou Watson enrolled into the Navy and delayed his progression to college. He was the only person on his service team to play high school basketball. Watson ended up being the leading scorer on his unit that was noted to be ranked third in the country among all other units.

Lou Watson’s Career as an Indiana University Player

After the war was over, Lou Watson finally enrolled at Indiana University. Lou Watson played under head coach Branch McCracken for all four years of his college career. His experience and age helped kick start his collegiate basketball career. Watson was also a dual-athlete at Indiana University, since he also played and lettered on Indiana’s baseball team.

Photo: IU Archives

By the end of Lou Watson’s career, his 757 points became Indiana’s all-time leading scoring record (breaking Ralph Hamilton’s previous record) and he was named first team All-Big Ten. He also received All-American honors during his senior year at Indiana University. Although he never had an opportunity to play in the postseason with the Hoosiers, he had one of the most impressive careers in program history up until that point.

Lou Watson’s Career as an Indiana University Coach

Photo: IU Archives

Upon graduation, Lou Watson became an assistant coach for the Hoosiers and specifically coached the freshmen players in 1951 and 1952. He would return back to coaching the freshmen in 1956-1957 as well. By 1958, Lou Watson coached the varsity squad and he later became the head coach of Indiana University in 1966, where he would have a six-season career with the Hoosiers. Most notably, he led the Hoosiers to a Big Ten co-championship in 1967 and finished with an overall record of 62-60.

In 1970, Lou Watson coached one of the most legendary players in Indiana University program history George McGinnis, who averaged 29.9 points per game and 14.5 rebounds per game in his single-season with the Hoosiers. McGinnis still holds the records for highest season averages in both categories.

Photo: IU Archives

Lou Watson’s Career after Coaching

In 1971, Lou Watson stepped down as head coach. Watson had a surgery that forced him to miss the final 20 games of the 1969-1970 season, and Watson decided to call it quits on his coaching career to focus on recovery. He was replaced by Jerry Oliver in both occasions to conclude the 1969-1970 season and 1970-1971 season.

He took a position as a special assistant to the Athletic Director in 1971 and he was a significant influencer in bringing head coach Bob Knight to Indiana University as the new head coach of the university. In 1976, Lout Watson became an Associate Director of Athletics before retiring in 1987 at the age of 53.

Lou Watson’s Passing

Indiana fans received unfortunate news on May 25, 2012. Lou Watson passed away in Fairfax, Virginia at the age of 88. Both then-Indiana head coach Tom Crean and athletic director Fred Glass had comments on the illustrious career of Watson.

Lou Watson was a part of so many of the historic moments of Indiana basketball and accomplished so many great things during his Hall of Fame career. My first meeting with him came at his home in Ellettsville and it was a great afternoon. It was a tremendous honor to have him visit our Elite Camp in 2009 with so many of the other former greats in attendance that afternoon. To see him return later that year with his family to serve as an honorary captain and to hear that ovation he received when he was introduced, I know it made his heart proud. Those were moments that I will never forget and his picture receiving the game ball with his grandsons has been displayed proudly in our locker room since that day.

Athletic Director Fred Glass

Lou Watson was a true Hall of Fame Hoosier in every sense of the word. His association to the University and the athletic program spanned over five decades first as a standout baseball and basketball player in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, second as a coach for the men’s basketball program from the 1950’s until the early 1970’s and finally as an administrator for the program until 1987. It was great to see him back in 2009 as an honorary coach. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean

Contributor: Rob Jiang