Hall of Fame Tennis Coach Jerry Simmons Dies, 76
BATON ROUGE – Legendary LSU tennis coach Jerry Simmons passed away on Monday night at the age of 76.
The winningest tennis coach in LSU history when he retired in 1997, Simmons coached the Tigers for 16 years, leading his teams to 278 victories and 13 Top 10 finishes at the NCAA Tournament. All but two of his LSU teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament with his top finish coming in 1988 when the Tigers capped a 27-2 season with an appearance in the NCAA National Championship match.
His 1988 team finished the year undefeated outdoors and also played for the national indoor title. Simmons was named National Coach of the Year following the 1988 season.
Of his 14 NCAA appearances, Simmons guided the Tigers to the quarterfinals five times, including three consecutive trips to the elite eight from 1991-93.
Simmons took over the LSU men’s tennis program in 1983 following an 11-year stint as head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette (then Southwestern Louisiana). At UL-Lafayette, Simmons won 214 matches from 1971-1982 leading the Cajuns to six straight Southland Conference titles and earning SLC Coach of the Year honors three times. He departed UL-Lafayette as the winningest coach in school history.
Under Simmons, LSU won the 1985 SEC Championship and reached the finals of the SEC Tournament three times. Simmons was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1997.
Simmons had two players win legs of the college grand slam. He coached Donni Leaycraft to the 1989 NCAA singles title, becoming the first player in LSU history to win the event. Later that year, Simmons was the on-court coach for Leaycraft in the main draw at the U.S. Open.
Johan Kjellsten captured the 1988 Clay Court singles title, another leg of the collegiate grand slam.
In 16 years with the Tigers, Simmons had players earn 24 All-America honors, 34 All-SEC accolades, and another 23 named Academic All-SEC. He had nine players earn SEC singles and doubles titles.
Upon retirement in 1997, Simmons had built LSU into a national powerhouse as the Tigers would go on to win back-to-back SEC Championships in 1998 and 1999 and advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament each of those seasons.
Simmons was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 and in 1998 he became the youngest coach ever named to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame.
Outside of college tennis, Simmons served as coach of the U.S. Junior Davis Cup Team in 1974 and again in 1981. He also taught tennis in Japan as well as establishing American ITF Junior circuit in 1999.
Born on June 5, 1946 in St. Paul, Minn., Simmons grew up in Amarillo, Texas. He played college tennis at West Texas State where he graduated in English and History in 1969.
Funeral services for Simmons have yet to be determined.