Mineral Wells High School lost one of its most revered coaches Monday morning when longtime baseball and basketball coach Pat Simmons passed away at 77 years of age.
Simmons, who guided Mineral Wells to the regional finals in basketball in 1965, died at approximately 5:30 a.m. He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Sara.
"He was a great, great man," said MWHS Athletic Director Chuck Lawrence. "Our condolences go out to his family. He was a great man, who did a lot for Mineral Wells High School."
Simmons' passing was hard news for his former players.
"He was a very successful coach who started the basketball legacy there in Mineral Wells," said Russ Pate, who played under Pate in the 1960s. There is a small piece of my heart that I always carry for him."
Mike McCall, who played on the 1965 basketball team, said Simmons' loss was extremely tough, for himself and everyone who knew him.
"Next to my dad, he was the most important man in my life," said McCall. "He helped me prove to myself that if I worked hard enough I could succeed. I had a lot less talent than most, but he showed me how to do things and worked with me, and helped me achieve things I wouldn't have achieved otherwise."
"You know, one of the things they have said about John Wooden was that he was a good man who never cursed. Pat was like that. He might yell and get mad, but he never said anything bad to anyone. He was as good a man as you will ever find," he added.
Born in 1933 in Oklaunion, Simmons was a high school basketball standout at the small school near Vernon. After graduating he played college basketball at Texas Wesleyan University.
Simmons began his coaching career in 1954 when he accepted a position coaching boys' and girls' athletics at Joshua High School. Two years later, he joined the Rams' coaching ranks as a freshman football coach and the head baseball coach.
It didn't take Simmons long to get results on the baseball field. In 1958, his team went 16-6 and won the District 4-3A championship. The Rams lost in the regional finals that season to Snyder.
Simmons later became the head basketball coach for Mineral Wells, and helped put the Rams on the hoops map. In 1965, Simmons took a team that featured Pate, Mike McCall and Eddie Nelson and led them to a 24-3 record.
That season, Mineral Wells averaged more than 72 points per game and advanced to the regional championship game before falling to Waxahachie.
Two years later, Simmons had the Rams back on time. Led by players such as Nelson and Craig Holamon, Mineral Wells rolled to the district championship.
Last year, he became the first man to serve as head coach of two teams inducted into the Mineral Wells High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Both the 1958 baseball and 1965 basketball teams are enshrined in the Hall.
"He was a good coach and teacher," said his wife, Sara. "He was very patient and kind, and loved working with the kids."
Simmons retired following the 1967 season to enter private business, working with Centron for many years.
"We all lost a great coach and a greater friend," said McCall.