Alex Simmons absorbed her surroundings. On the front row within the Elma Roane Fieldhouse sat family members on hand for her formal introduction as the new University of Memphis women’s basketball head coach.
Two young children – her own – were part of the support unit anticipating the special moment.
“I knew that I was going to be the head coach of Memphis before they knew,” Simmons said with a laugh about the discussions she had with University of Memphis Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Laird Veatch.
“I am happy to be here and am looking to stay for a long time.”
Staying put beyond two years would mean she surpassed the stint of Katrina Merriweather, who guided the Tigers to the WNIT and their most successful season in many years before taking the head coaching position at the University of Cincinnati, where she starred from 1997-98 to 2000-01.
Veatch particularly was struck by Simmons’ vision for the continued improvement of the women’s basketball program.
“There were a lot of candidates for this position,” Veatch said, “but Alex showed a level beyond the others, and we are happy to have her as our head coach.”
Simmons, 36, was born in Fort Polk South, Louisiana. A graduate of Shelbyville (Tennessee) Central High School, in 2004 Simmons (then Alexandria “Alex” Fuller) was named Miss Tennessee Basketball. She played forward/center on two of legendary coach Pat Simmons’ national championship teams at the University of Tennessee.
Her coaching journey began in 2009 as a graduate manager at Kansas and wound through Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Mississippi. Subsequently, she landed in Boiling Springs, N.C. for a successful five-season run as head coach of Gardner-Webb University, where she amassed an 89-58 record, including a 29-5 record that yielded an NCAA Tournament berth last season.
For Simmons, building upon the Tigers’ recent success involves tapping into the sizeable amount of Memphis-area talent, a key reason she accepted the head-coaching position. She consistently recruited Tennessee-based players while at Gardner-Webb.
“Now that we are in the state we are going to do our best to keep the top talent in the state here,” Simmons said. “That’s important for our success and for our footprint.”
With Memphis now “home,” Simmons said, “I am definitely going to be … active when it comes to walking the campus. …
“I’m eager to take my children around campus, even though we possibly may get lost.”