Jerry Simmons, the legendary tennis coach at both Louisiana and LSU, passed away Monday at the age of 76.
The winningest tennis coach in school history when he retired in 197, Simmons spent 16 seasons in Baton Rouge, winning 278 matches and 13 Top 10 finishes in the NCAA Tournament, with all but two of his teams making the postseason. His top finish was in 1988 when the Tigers capped a 27-2 season and appeared in the National Championship match, for which Simmons earned National Coach of the Year honors.
Simmons arrived in Baton Rouge after 11 years in Lafayette at then Southwestern Louisiana. While at Louisiana, Simmons won 214 matches from 1971-1982, winning six Southland Conference titles and earning SLC Coach of the Year three different times. He was the Cajuns’ winningest coach when leaving for Baton Rouge.
LSU won the 1985 SEC title and reached the tournament finals three times under Simmons, who garnered two SEC Coach of the Year awards in 1988 and 1997.
Two of Simmons’ players won legs of the college grand slam during his career. Donni Leaycraft won the 1989 NCAA singles title, becoming the first LSU player to win the event. Simmons later coach Leaycraft in that year’s main draw of the U.S. Open. Johan Kjellsten also captured the 1988 Clay Court singles title, which is a different leg of the grand slam.
Simmons had players earn 24 All-American honors, 34 All-SEC, and 23 named Academic All-SEC while in Baton Rouge. He also coached nine players to SEC singles and doubles titles.
Upon retirement in 1997, Simmons built LSU into a national powerhouse as the Tigers won the next two SEC titles and advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in 1998 and 1999.
Simmons was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 and was also the youngest coach to enter the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 1998.
Simmons also served as the coach of the U.S. Junior Davis Cup teams in 1974 and 1981, taught tennis in Japan, and established the American ITF Junior circuit in 1999.
Simmons was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1946 before growing up in Amarillo, texas. He played tennis at West Texas State, graduating in English and History in 1969.
Funeral services are currently to be determined.