Simmons Joining Coaching Ranks

The former walk-on has quickly transitioned from player to coach at the college level.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Jackson Simmons needed less than a month after graduating from UNC to land a spot on Mark Price’s staff at Charlotte.

Simmons, a former walk-on forward who played in 115 games as a Tar Heel, will serve as a graduate assistant on Price’s initial collegiate staff. His role will include film work and some on-court instruction, among other responsibilities.

“I know that coaching at the college level is what I want to do,” Simmons said. “My mom coached, my dad coached, my grandparents were coaches. It’s what I grew up around. I’ve always expected that transition from player to coach. That’s been the mold and model of what I wanted to pursue.”

UNC head coach Roy Williams and director of basketball operations Joe Holladay helped Simmons during the job-hunting process.

“The ball got rolling pretty quick and I heard back pretty quick, so luckily it was a fast and non-stressful process,” Simmons said.

While Simmons had long planned on transitioning into the coaching ranks after his playing days came to a close, it wasn’t until the start of his senior year that he turned general thoughts into a course of action. UNC assistant head coach C.B. McGrath, who played under Williams at Kansas, offered advice on the move from player to coach.

“The biggest thing [McGrath] told me was that you’ve got to be yourself,” Simmons said. “Don’t try to be somebody else. There will be a transition because I’m used to playing and that’s all I’ve ever known, and now I’m going to have to be able to have a relationship with players but also know when to turn it off and vice versa.”

Simmons expects his playing experience to serve as a foundation to his entrance into the coaching realm. He highlighted his understanding of the external circumstances beyond the court and the X’s and O’s, such as balancing the workload between class, family and basketball.

Playing under a Hall of Fame coach has its educational value as well.

“He is the most intense and competitive person that I’ve been around,” Simmons said of Williams. “He’s shown that you have to create an environment in which there is competition and where people care. It’s almost a business approach. There are different roles within a company and if each person does his job the best that he can, that’s how you have success.”

Simmons, who will likely pursue a liberal arts master’s degree, will start his coaching career right in between his hometown of Webster, N.C. and Chapel Hill.

“I’m pretty close to both homes,” Simmons said. “It’s a good middle ground. I grew up playing a lot of basketball in Charlotte in AAU and then going there for team camp. It’s a great city. I’m blessed that I’m close to two places that I really do love. I got lucky in that regard.”

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