How life and basketball brought Simmons to the EIU – The Daily Eastern News
Marty Simmons has had an illustrious basketball career, from his days as Mr. Basketball in Lawrenceville, Illinois to a 287-272 overall record as a college head coach.
About a year ago, he was named the fifteenth head coach of the Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team and would coach a team that was often outnumbered but never lacking in toughness.
Simmons began his college basketball career as a player at Indiana under Bob Knight, but transferred to the University of Evansville to play for Jim Crews, a former Indiana assistant.
Two years after ending his college playing career, Simmons would join Crews’ staff as an assistant, launching a coaching career that had just entered its fourth decade.
“I really didn’t know what to expect, so there was some curiosity,” Marty Simmons said. “And then it was harder than I thought, a lot more work than maybe, as a player you probably don’t fully respect everything a coach does. If you could coach first and play as a second, I think we would all be better players.
Simmons said his favorite thing about coaching and being on basketball teams is that it gives everyone a support group.
“I think it’s just the camaraderie, the brotherhood,” Marty Simmons said. “I’m going to be down there someday, and you’ll be there to pick me up, and when you’re down, I’ll be there.”
Marty Simmons’ practices are tough, but he prepares the team for the matchups ahead so that when it comes time to speak in a matchup against a team like Murray State, they’ll be ready for what’s next. spear.
“I was really brought up in a way that you really don’t want to face anything in a game that you haven’t faced in training, and I was able to develop confidence” , said Marty Simmons.
Sammy Friday IV, a veteran leader of the 2021-22 Panthers, said he preferred training to be just that, and said that by training hard, the team gets its conditioning.
“It’s supposed to be very structured, very detail-oriented,” Friday said. “And he was like that, he pushed us 110% every day, Doug (Novsek), all the coaches did that. So I liked that, it makes you work harder and then that translates into the game, when you’re in the smooth game, it comes from practice.
Marty Simmons’ competitiveness and commitment sometimes arise at home, his wife Angie Simmons said, whether at Monopoly or at family meals.
“…Marty is constantly like, ‘What can we do? How can we improve?’ It’s like so much what, what, what,” Angie Simmons said. “He’ll be talking in his head, when he’s having dinner you can see his lips moving, and you know he’s trying to play basketball.”
Jimmy Elgas, a men’s basketball coach at Henderson State University, was on the first coaching staff that Simmons assembled at Evansville. The two met in Atlanta during the 2007 Final Four for an interview, and Elgas came prepared with recruiting notes and ways to compete against the powerhouses of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Rather than peppering Elgas with questions about basketball, Simmons asked him two things: Are you a good dad? Are you a good husband?
Elgas hesitated, then answered frankly: he could do better either way. Simmons told him that by working together, Elgas would learn the balance it takes to be both a coach and a husband and father.
“I will never forget this interview,” Elgas said. “Because without Coach, I don’t think I would be the man I am today.”
Angie said Marty’s family values were instilled in him by his parents and his time playing and working with the Crews and he was able to balance basketball and family.
“It’s hard in the coaching world to sometimes put your family first because you’re responsible, in Marty’s case, for young men,” Angie Simmons said. “And he said to their parents, ‘I will watch over them in their best interests,’ and he stays true to that, and is always able to put our children and our family first.”
Marty Simmons has had to balance his family more in recent years after losing his father to COVID-19 in October 2020. His daughter Brittany suffered a traumatic brain injury after going into cardiac arrest in her sleep in July 2019 while Simmons was in Italy when he was an assistant. at Clemson.
Angie said Marty’s rush to get back to Indiana from Italy was “the most stressful time of Marty’s life.”
After waking up from a coma and traveling for nine months from rehab hospital to rehab hospital, Brittany is now undergoing therapy at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center and Eastern, which Angie says has been “excellent”.
After ending his head coaching tenure at Evansville in 2018 with a 184-175 record, Marty Simmons headed to Clemson for an assistant role that would pit him against NCAA and league coaching legends. ‘ACC like Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.
The responsibilities that come with being a head coach brought Simmons back into a head coaching role and after securing the job at Eastern he began preparing for the 2021-22 season.
“I kinda wanted to be a head coach again,” Marty Simmons said. “There’s something about putting together a staff and putting together a team and all the things that go with it. The students on campus, your fans, your donors, I mean really everything, and I was excited about it and (I am) still excited about it. I think we have a chance to really succeed.
Every newcomer to Marty Simmons’ East first team has been recruited remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That would be just the beginning of the challenges Simmons would face in less than a calendar year in Charleston. A variety of issues would leave the Panthers with as few as seven conference players in multiple games.
Despite this, hope persisted. Eastern would win its first OVC game with just seven players at UT-Martin on Jan. 27 and followed that up this weekend with a home win over Tennessee State.
The OVC dregs were so crowded that those wins put Eastern in contention for the final tournament berth, which was to be played in Evansville, of all places.
A six-game losing streak to finish the season with a 5-26 overall record would shut them out of the playoffs.
“It’s frustrating, but you never let it consume you,” Marty Simmons said. “You have to move on to the next thing, you have to prepare for the next meeting, the next game, whatever it is.”
Elgas has no doubts about the success that the future of Eastern’s program under Simmons holds.
“He’s going to get things done,” Elgas said. “There is no doubt in my mind that there is success on the horizon for Eastern Illinois, no doubt. It is because of the man and the character that the Simmons. I believe in it with all my heart.”
Marty Simmons, a lifelong basketball player, might never stop mumbling to himself at the dinner table, but given his dedication and experience, he might turn optimistic sooner rather than later.
Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]