It may be just the beginning of football season, however there is big news for followers of Northwestern State basketball. Do you recognize the coach in the picture? Read on!
Demons’ head coach Mike McConathy announced Monday the return of Dave Simmons to the NSU basketball staff after 12 seasons as head coach at Southland Conference rival McNeese.
Simmons, 58, was the lead assistant during McConathy’s first seven seasons at Northwestern (1999-2006), when the Demons made their first two NCAA Tournament appearances (2001, 2006), winning a game both times in March Madness.
Simmons, a DeRidder native and former standout from 1977-81 at Louisiana Tech, carries the title of assistant to the head coach on the NSU staff. He began work Monday.
McConathy and Simmons guided the Demons to their most dynamic stretch. After NSU had just five winning records in its first 24 years of NCAA Division I competition, after McConathy took over and hired Simmons, there were four more winning seasons in the next seven years, including 47 victories in their last two while shattering attendance records at Prather Coliseum.
The Demons beat Winthrop in the 2001 NCAA Tournament after capturing the Southland Conference Tournament championship. In 2005-06, NSU set a school record with 26 wins, claiming the Southland regular-season and tournament crowns before knocking off No. 15 Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Simmons has a combined 31 years in the Southland as a player and coach, including the last 12 as head coach at McNeese. He guided the Cowboys to the 2010-11 Southland regular-season championship, two Southland championship games and is the only McNeese coach to lead his teams to back-to-back national postseason tournaments: the 2011 NIT and 2012 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Simmons won the 2011 and 2012 Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches “Tommy Joe Eagles Coach of the Year” awards, and was the 2010-11 Southland Coach of the Year.
He is the third-winningest coach in McNeese history. Only Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member Ralph Ward, who coached 19 seasons, spent more time in charge of the Cowboys basketball program than Simmons, who dramatically improved the program’s Academic Progress Rate scores during his tenure.
As an assistant coach, Simmons has helped three different Southland Conference schools – McNeese, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern – to five NCAA Tournament appearances.
Simmons’ 89 percent free throw aim at Louisiana Tech in his senior year (1980-81) is best in school history by a player with over 75 makes. His career 81.8 percent rate at the line ranks fourth. Simmons is featured on a banner in the concourse of the Bulldogs’ Thomas Assembly Center and is a member of the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame, enshrined in 2007 for his playing days as an All-Southland and All-NABC District 23 performer.