Simpkins was a basketball standout himself as a three-time honorable mention All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection at the University of Maryland College Park. His excellent college career led to Simpkins playing professional basketball overseas and in the United States.
Simpkins spent eight seasons on the coaching staff at George Mason University, helping the team to program bests within the Atlantic 10. In 2020, Simpkins was named one of the country’s Top 50 Most Impactful Mid-Major Assistants by Silverwaves Media.
At a press conference in Bender Arena on Wednesday, April 5, Simpkins was officially introduced as the men’s basketball head coach. AU students, fans and alumni were in attendance to welcome the new coach.
The press conference started with AU President Sylvia Burwell, who expressed her excitement to welcome Simpkins to the Eagle family due to his commitment to excellence on and off the court.
Athletics Director Billy Walker spoke next, sharing that Simpkins is in line with AU’s core values.
“At AU, we give you a world class education and a quality Division I experience at the same time. Those are not mutually exclusive to us.” he said.
Burwell and Walker then presented Simpkins with his own custom AU jersey, which was met with loud applause throughout the arena.
Simpkins expressed gratitude for his new position.
“I am tremendously excited and extremely proud to be here before you as the next head coach,” Simpkins said.
The new coach then laid out the core values he wants to have in the program. The first value Simpkins listed is character. “We’re going to recruit and identify high character young men,” he said.
The second value Simpkins stated is emotional, physical, and spiritual toughness.
“Within a 40 minute game, there are going to be some bad calls, the other team will make runs. Do we have the intestinal fortitude to overcome these things?” he said.
Simpkins also said hard work will take the team to new heights.
“I have no idea what the other 366 teams around the country are doing, but I know if you walk in our gym, we’re going to be working our tails off every day to get better,” he said.
Humility was the last value Simpkins listed. “My definition of humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less. If our team reaches its goals, we all look good, the administration looks good, the community looks good. But it will take sacrifice, and it will take humility,” he said.
Simpkins then listed his goals for the team, stating he wants them to be a top 50 team in terms of offensive efficiency, win the Patriot League and his ultimate goal is to not only reach the NCAA tournament, but to win games in the tournament.
“Come along on this journey with us, and see us strive for greatness, win championships and make everyone proud to be an Eagle.”
The players on the team expressed their excitement for their new coach. “It’s going to be a learning curve, but we have a really good group of guys that like each other and coach Simpkins, so we’re excited,” junior guard Lincoln Ball said.
“I'm excited for a different approach than what we had before. The competitiveness that coach Simpkins wants to bring is exciting,” freshman center Jermaine Ballisager Webb said.
Effective immediately, coach Simpkins will start implementing his vision to “win basketball games, championships and inspire so many people around campus to be excited about being an American Eagle.”
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.