Simmons reaches 500
By Thadd White
Three decades ago it would have seemed like a pipe dream.
When Charles Simmons took over the basketball program at what was then Ahoskie High School, winning was a foreign concept.
He took the job because he knew there were athletes at the school and he intended to make them basketball players and to resurrect a program that had been essentially left for dead.
Simmons worked his heart out with those athletes and turned the fortunes of the program around. When AHS consolidated with Murfreesboro High School to form Hertford County High, the man known respectfully as ‘Sir Charles’ was off to the races.
The plan for success reached a goal that many never accomplish Wednesday night when Charles Simmons walked off the basketball court at First Flight High School the winner of 500 career games.
“It really feels good,” Simmons said. “I guess it puts you in a different category because there are so few coaches with 500-plus wins.”
The win was the 15th of the season for Hertford County and came after the Bears dispensed with Northeastern Coastal Conference rival First Flight 62-50.
“I knew I could turn the program around, but I don’t think I could have imagined this,” Simmons said of personally reaching the 500 career coaching victories.
While he has been the guiding force of the turnaround, Simmons credited his players with the success.
“It always comes down to having good student-athletes,” he stressed. “We’ve always been fortunate enough to have that here. Our kids have also traditionally bought into what we’re trying to do.
“When you talk about Hertford County basketball, you know what we’re about,” Simmons said. “We want to extend the floor, we want to get after you defensively and we want to play fast. We’ve had the athletes to do that and it’s been a blessing.”
Simmons was also thankful for those who have been with him on the sidelines during those 30 years.
“I have been lucky to have some excellent people with me over the years,” Simmons said. “They have helped make this program strong and I’m grateful for them.”
Wednesday’s victory was a culmination of years of hard work and is one of a career full of milestones. Simmons took a few minutes to remember some of them this week.
“One of the biggest wins of my career was when we were nearing the end of Ahoskie High School,” Simmons said. “We finished second in the conference and won the conference tournament. That was my first conference tournament win and it was really exciting.”
Another good memory is a series of wins.
“Our kids took a lot of pride in the fact that we went for a four-year span where we didn’t lose on our home floor,” Simmons said. “That was a streak that meant a lot to me and to our kids.”
Simmons has guided his team to a pair of Sectional championships in his years at the helm. While both were special, he said the first one culminated from a lot of frustration.
“We had gone to the Sectional finals for three straight years,” he said. “Two of those years, I had to meet the opposing coach in Greenville to flip a coin for home court and we lost both of them.
“We finally hosted it and beat a good West Craven team in our gym to win the Sectional,” he continued. “That was a relief to finally get into the Regionals.”
All of that work has been accomplished at what is traditionally known as a football school.
“Everybody knows Hertford County High School is a football school – it has been and still is,” Simmons noted. “We’ve been fortunate enough to get the football players to play basketball and to buy into what we want to do.
“They have used what they learn on the football field to help our basketball team,” he continued. “They bring the attitude and the toughness and transfer it to the basketball court.”
Despite having sufficient years to retire, Simmons said he isn’t heading out the door any time soon.
“I’ve basically promised my son that I’ll get him to high school,” Simmons said. “That means I will probably coach at least three or four more years, but I’m taking it one year at a time.”
Simmons had to step away from the game one time before – fulfilling what was then a school rule to not have the athletic director coach a sport. He was out one year while Ted Hicks directed the Bears. After that season, Hicks left and Simmons was reappointed to the role.
“I felt like I was part of getting things started in the right direction,” Simmons said. “With getting the chance to coach again, I fill like I’ve been able to finish what we started.”
He also has strong feelings about the future of Bears’ Basketball.
“When I decide to leave, I want to make sure the right person comes in who can keep this tradition going,” he said.
That tradition got even stronger Wednesday when the Bears saw their skipper become a member of the elite 500-win club.