EVANSVILLE, IN - Marty Simmons won championships as a player and as an assistant coach at the University of Evansville. He knows what it takes to return the Purple Aces' program to its Championship Tradition level.
One example is the 2008-09 season, when Simmons took a 9-21 team from the previous year and turned it into a 17-game winner that reached post-season play.
The Purple Aces landed a spot in the inaugural CollegeInsider.com Post-season Tournament. The 2009 Aces achieved their best winning percentage since 2000, and their first post-season appearance since 1999, when Simmons was an assistant coach with the Aces.
Senior Shy Ely was second in voting for Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, and senior Jason Holsinger earned Academic All-America honors.
Simmons' work in 2009 was reflected in voting for the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year award. He finished third in the balloting, trailing only the two coaches who led their teams to the MVC co-championship.
Even though the 2009-10 season yielded only nine victories, Evansville was the only team in the MVC without a scholarship senior, and by far the youngest team in the league. Despite playing four freshmen in most games, Simmons led the Aces to late-season victories over 22nd ranked Northern Iowa and Wichita State, the top two teams in the MVC. UE's Colt Ryan became Evansville's first MVC Freshman of the Year.
"I know we can win because I lived it as a player here, and I lived it as a coach here," Simmons says. "When you recruit young men who are expected to go to class and succeed academically, that also translates into succeeding as a player and getting better on the basketball court. They come in here being focused on doing the right things. Plus, we have faculty who care about all of their students, and we have such great support in our community. Those are the reasons why Evansville is a special place when it comes to basketball."
Simmons knows how to win at Evansville as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. Although Simmons played only two years at UE, as a junior and senior, he is regarded as one of the best players in UE history. Simmons led the Purple Aces to a conference championship in 1987, doubling their victories from eight to 16. One year later, he averaged nearly 26 points per game and guided Evansville to the second round of the 1988 NIT.
As an assistant coach at UE under Jim Crews in the 1990s, he helped lead Evansville to three NCAA Tournament appearances. Simmons was a popular choice in the community to take over as head coach in 2007, and he quickly went to work in rebuilding the program.
Prior to his return, Simmons was head coach for five years at Division II Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where he took over a program that had not won 10 games since 1999 and led the Cougars to 23 wins in 2005 and 25 in 2006.
SIUE reached the NCAA Tournament in 2005 for the first time in 15 years, and Simmons was chosen as Great Lakes Valley Coach of the Year. His 2006 squad did even better, winning three games in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional Championships and advancing to the Elite Eight. SIUE appeared in the national rankings 16 weeks.
A native of Lawrenceville, Ill., Simmons led Lawrenceville High School to back to back Class A state championships and became one of the most celebrated players in Illinois prep history.
Affectionately known as 'Mule,' his 2,986 career points were the third most in Illinois history when he graduated in 1983. He is still the fifth leading scorer all-time in Illinois.
Simmons played at Lawrenceville for Ron Felling, who went on to become an assistant coach at Indiana University. Simmons himself spent his first two years of college at Indiana.
As a freshman, he was a key player on I.U.'s final eight team in the 1984 NCAA Tournament. The 1985 team at Indiana finished as runnerup in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). It was during Indiana's NIT run in 1985 when Indiana University assistant coach Jim Crews was chosen as Evansville's head coach.
Two months later, Simmons transferred to Evansville.
Already designated as the Aces' team captain while sitting out his redshirt season, Simmons immediately helped turn around the UE program when he became eligible in 1986-87. H
e averaged 22.4 points as a junior and led Evansville to a first place tie in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. As a senior, he finished sixth in the nation in scoring at 25.9, and finished ninth in balloting for the Associated Press College Basketball Player of the Year. He led the Aces to a 21-8 record in 1988 and a first-round win over Utah in the NIT.
It was Evansville's first post-season appearance since 1982, and UE's first post-season win at the Division I level. A first team all-MCC player in both of his seasons at UE, Simmons scored 750 points as a senior, the fourth most in school history.
Despite playing only two seasons at Evansville, he ranks 22nd with 1,265 points.
Simmons played one season for the LaCrosse Catbirds of the Continental Basketball Association, in 1988-89, and made the World Basketball League all-star team the following year while playing for the Illinois Express. He returned to the University of Evansville in 1990 as restricted earnings coach on Coach Crews's staff, and remained in that position until taking the head coaching job in 1996-97 at Division III Wartburg (Iowa) College.
Simmons returned to the University of Evansville the next season as a full-time assistant coach, and stayed at UE until taking the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville coaching job in April, 2002.
With Simmons on the staff, the Aces reached the NCAA Tournament in 1992, 1993 and 1999, and the NIT in 1994. In addition, they won two MCC and one MVC regular season titles, and two post-season conference tournaments. As recruiting coordinator, he brought in eight players who went on to play professional basketball, and every senior coached by Simmons received his undergraduate degree.