By Earl Vaughan Jr.
Few coaches have been as deeply invested in an athletic program as David Simmons has with basketball at Seventy-First High School.
He rose from playing for Pete House in the latter half of the 1980s, to assistant coach and eventually head coach of the Falcons.
Now, after more than 30 years at the school, he’s decided it’s time for the next chapter in his athletic life. Effective New Year’s Eve, Simmons worked his final day as a Falcon, and will move into his new job as assistant principal and athletic director at South View Middle School on Jan. 4.
Taking over as interim boys’ basketball coach at Seventy-First will be Simmons’ assistant coach for the last half dozen years, Brandan Barabino, who coached both the freshman and junior varsity teams under Simmons.
Simmons calls Barabino a trusted assistant who knows the players and who will keep the rich tradition of basketball at Seventy-First alive.
Simmons, who followed in the footsteps of another successful head coach, Bernie Poole, departs with seven conference basketball championships. He also led the Falcons to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A Eastern Regional finals in 2013 where they lost to eventual 4-A runner-up Raleigh Broughton.
“I had a lot of good years at Seventy-First,’’ Simmons said. “We made our run at it.’’
Simmons said the thing he’ll miss the support of the Seventy-First fans and the interaction with both the students and the athletes.
“Hopefully, being an athletic director and staying in sports, I’ll be able to help middle schoolers and prepare them for high school,’’ he said.
“I’m going to miss the practices, the camps, the collaboration with the student-athletes.’’
Simmons said the COVID-19 pandemic made his final months as basketball coach difficult.
“I hadn’t been in contact with the kids since March,’’ Simmons said, referring to the time when schools first shut down because of the virus. “I didn’t have a summer with my kids. It’s been a challenge.’’
Simmons said the team he’s leaving behind is young, with six sophomores, but he doesn’t think the cupboard is close to being bare.
“I made sure we were in a good situation,’’ he said. “They are going to be pretty good. The future is bright.’’