Syracuse's Simmons retires as winningest active coach in sport 19-year assistant Desko to replace 62-year-old

May 24, 1998|By Mike Preston and Jamison Hensley

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Syracuse's Roy Simmons Jr., the all-time winningest active coach in lacrosse, retired yesterday after the Orangemen lost to Princeton, 11-10, in the Division I semifinals at Rutgers Stadium.

Simmons, 62, had talked about retiring several times during the past five years, but made the announcement official yesterday. Simmons will be replaced by John Desko, his assistant of the past 19 seasons.

"I leave my position having done the best I could and realize the tradition I added to will continue as in the past," said Simmons, who coached 12 years as an assistant with his father before taking over the head post. "I will remain a loyal alumnus of both the program and the university. From a distance, I will always be there if asked to assist in the growth of the athletic department in any way. I thank Syracuse for the opportunity to serve as both teacher and coach for the past 40 years."

Simmons is the only men's head coach to win six Division I NCAA championships and his team has appeared in 16 consecutive final fours. Simmons has a career record of 290-96 with a .751 winning percentage.

His resume includes coaching 130 All-Americans, four national players of the year and five tournament MVP's. Simmons coached Syracuse to three straight titles beginning in 1988.

His teams played with a wide-open style and a flamboyancy that has never been duplicated. The behind-the-back passes, wraparound shots and one-handed, over-the-shoulder checks were trademarks.

"Roy has been an institution both of the game of college lacrosse and his university in the last 40 years," said Jake Crouthamel, Syracuse's athletic director. "He revolutionized the game and in the process built a men's lacrosse program at Syracuse that takes a back seat to no one."

"When the nation's most successful active intercollegiate coach retires, it has significant relevance to the game," said Crouthamel.

Princeton coach Bill Tierney said: "I wish I could exude class the way Roy does. His detractorssay that he is not an 'X' and 'O' guy, but that team today was as well-coached as I've ever seen. Roy has brought the game to an exciting level by allowing his guys to make mistakes. They wouldn't be able to do the things they do if they didn't try them. He allows his kids to play."

Desko said he had known about Simmons' retirement plans earlier this year, but few of the players had an advance warning. Desko played under Simmons and is a 1979 Syracuse graduate.

He says Syracuse's style will remain the same.

"He has been my coach, my friend and boss for almost 23 years," said Desko. "But during the last year or two, he has been letting me get my feet wet. I've done most of the recruiting and Roy has prepared me.

"I remember when he got the job, he said he went into the locker room and looked down at his father's shoes and they were pretty big to fill," said Desko. "Well, he has some pretty big shoes too. Ihope to just accomplish a fraction of what he has."

Syracuse attackman Casey Powell, holding back tears, said: "Everybody on this team realizes what a special man he was."

Princeton's Cook out

Princeton will be without star defenseman Christian Cook, who had to be helped from the field yesterday because of a severe injury to his right knee. Cook will not play against Maryland, according to Tierney.

Cook will be replaced by junior Jason Farrell.

"The doctor said he will be out, but that requires someone else to step up," said Tierney. Maryland has one of the best attacks in the country led by Matt Hahn, Andrew Whipple and Scott Hochstadt.

Tigers stay humble

Despite playing for a third straight national title, the Tigers aren't talking about a dynasty.

"It's not like we've been blowing teams out," said Princeton attack Chris Massey. "It's like the coach said, take each game individually. We've been barely fortunate to pull some of these games out."

Edell breaks ACC record

Maryland's Dick Edell became the winningest coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history with his 138th victory yesterday, surpassing former Virginia coach Jim Adams. He has averaged more than nine wins over his 15 years with the Terps.

Et cetera

The attendance of 21,194 is the largest crowd to watch the semifinals outside Byrd Stadium. Last year at Byrd, the final four drew 30,580. Loyola's only other loss this season occurred against North Carolina on March 7. The Maryland senior class is 8-3 in the NCAA tournament with three championship game appearances. Maryland hasn't won a national championship since 1975. The Terps lost to Princeton in last year's final, 19-7, but lead the all-time series against the Tigers, 28-8.

Finally?

Tomorrow will be Maryland's fifth trip to the NCAA championship game since the Terps last won the title in 1975. How the Terps fared in the first four:

Year .. ..Lost to .. .. .. .. ..Score

1976 .. ..Cornell .. .. .. .. .16-13*

.. ..Johns Hopkins .. .. ...15-9

1995 .. ..Syracuse .. .. .. .. ..13-9

.. ..Princeton .. .. .. .. .19-7

overtime

Simmons file

Highlights of the career of Roy Simmons Jr., who retired yesterday after 28 seasons as Syracuse lacrosse coach:

Won-lost record: 290-96

Winning percentage: .751

National championships: 6

Final four appearances: 16

Undefeated seasons: 2

All-Americans: 130

Pub Date: 5/24/98

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