Legendary retired Syracuse University coach, Roy Simmons Jr., and famed Iroquois wooden stick maker, Alf Jacques, presented on lacrosse on Sunday, March 12th.
Roy Simmons Jr. was the head coach of the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team from 1971 to 1998. Under his leadership, the Orange won the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship six times, and appeared in the national semifinals for 16 consecutive seasons. Simmons was inducted into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1991.
The son of Roy Simmons Sr., head coach of the SU men’s lacrosse team for 39 years and a 1964 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee, Simmons grew up surrounded by lacrosse and the Orange. In 1955, he joined the SU lacrosse team as a player under his father. Two years later, the team celebrated a nearly undefeated season, during which Simmons came in second only to Jim Brown among the team’s leading scorers. He was named honorable mention All-American in 1957 and 1958.
Upon graduating with his bachelor’s degree sculpture in 1959, Simmons joined his father’s coaching staff as coach of SU’s freshman lacrosse team. Twelve years later he became head coach of the SU men’s varsity team, though his early results were mixed due to inconsistent financial support for the program from the University. During Simmons’ tenure, the University would eventually grant the program the scholarships it needed to be competitive at the highest level.
The team Simmons’ inherited from his father had relied almost exclusively on ex-members of the Orange football team and local Native Americans to compose the bulk of its roster. Under Simmons’ leadership, the Orange expanded their recruiting efforts to also include central New York area high school players, which helped the team reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 1979. They reached the NCAA Tournament again in 1980, losing to Johns Hopkins in the semifinals, but earning their highest tournament placement to date. The achievement earned Simmons’ the title of Division I Men’s Lacrosse Coach of the Year as well as the F. Morris Touchstone Award.
The Orange would reach the tournament again in 1981, before narrowly missing out in 1982. In 1983, SU posted an 11-1 regular season record and reached the championship round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Despite trailing the top-rated Blue Jays by 4 at halftime and by 7 during the second half, the Orange rallied for a 17-16 victory, securing SU’s first ever NCAA Tournament title and its first national championship since 1925. The team would reach the NCAA tournament for the next 21 consecutive years.
In 1987, Simmons’ career was marked by another high point in the SU debut of Canadians Paul and Gary Gait, who Simmons referred to as “the two greatest lacrosse players I’ve ever seen in my life.” With the help of the Gait brothers, SU would win the NCAA Tournament for a second time in 1988 and again in 1989 and 1990.The Orange reached the national championship game for the seventh time in ten seasons in 1992, losing to Princeton in double overtime, before returning an eighth time and claiming the title again in 1993. SU won its sixth national championship under Simmons’ leadership in 1995.
Although his 1996-98 teams were all eliminated in the national semifinals, Simmons retired from the University in 1998 with a 290-96 record as head coach and a 16 consecutive year streak of reaching the NCAA semifinals.
Together with his late wife, Nancy, Simmons raised three children in the Syracuse area. His son Roy III played under his father at SU from 1978-1981, and is currently the director of operations for the SU men’s lacrosse team. His protégé and former assistant coach, John Desko, has served as head coach of the SU men’s lacrosse team since Simmons’ retirement.
Alf Jacques grew up on the Onondaga Nation making wooden sticks alongside his father, Lou. His skill and reputation draws fans, photographers, writers and filmmakers to his shop – some from hundreds of miles away. Evidence of his renown was on display recently, when the University of Virginia men’s lacrosse team went out of their way to visit Jacques’s shop and pay homage to the sport they love when in town to face off against the Orange. Incidentally, the Orange defeated the Cavilers 14-13 in the final seconds of the game.