Dave Simmons is the proud father of the 2016 NBA Draft’s top pick Ben Simmons. The former Australian pro basketball player will watch his son play ball for the Philadelphia 76ers next season.
Simmons played professional basketball in Australia for 13 seasons and led the Melbourne Tigers to their first championship season in 1993. The New York native still makes his home down under with his wife Julie and their six children (two biological and four stepchildren).
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Simmons Played in Central and South America After College
Simmons grew up in New York City and attended South Bronx High School. He played college basketball at Oklahoma City University. Describing Simmons, 76ers head coach Brett Brown, who coached Ben’s father in Melbourne, told CSN Philly:
David Simmons was from Harlem, New York. He could have been a linebacker, he could have been a prize fighter. He was a basketball player more out of athleticism and girth than he was out of finesse and skill. He was a tough, tough 6-8 and hard like an Anthony Mason-type player.
He bounced around pro leagues in Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela after graduation, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. His agent then called about an interested Austrian team when he actually met Australian. The team was the Melbourne Tigers and the coach was Lindsay Gaze, the father of legendary Australian player Andrew Gaze, who would be Simmons future teammate.
2. He Helped the Melbourne Tigers Win Their First Championship in 1993.
In 1989, Simmons moved to Australia and signed with the Melbourne Tigers in the country’s National Basketball League. He scored 28 points in his first NBL game and went on to score 30 or more points in seven games during his first season, according to NBL Wiki.
The Tigers imported Simmons with fellow American Dave Colbert and were fan favorites because they brought immediate success to the franchise. The American ballers called themselves “The Double Ds,” according to SMH. Together with Australian great Andrew Gaze, they helped lead the team to its first post-season appearance.
Simmons would be part of the Tigers first championship in 1993. He also received All-Star honors in his second season in the NBL. The team later retired his jersey number 25.
3. His Wife Gave Birth to Ben While They Watched Simmons’ Teammates at the 1996 Olympics.
Simmons met his wife Julie in Melbourne at the gym. He was her second marriage and she already had four children with her previous husband. She and Simmons soon welcomed their daughter Olivia and then five years later, baby Ben arrived. All of the couple’s children are athletic and participated in basketball, rowing, AFL (Australian football) and cricket.
Julie went into contractions with Ben while watching the opening ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, which featured Simmons’ teammates from the Melbourne Tigers, Andrew Gaze and Mark Bradtke, representing Australia. When the basketball players flashed on screen, it grabbed everyone’s attention in Melbourne’s St Vincent hospital room, including Julie’s doctor.
“Nothing’s happening. We almost had forgotten she was there,” Simmons told the SMH. “They had a big sign [at the ceremony] saying, ‘How y’all doin’?’ and Julie looked up and screamed, ‘I’ll tell you how I’m doing. I’m trying to have a baby.'”
Benjamin David Simmons arrived the next day on July 20, 1996.
4. Simmons Coached for Two Years in the NBL After His Playing Career Ended.
Simmons finished his career in 2001 as a member of the Canberra Cannons. He transitioned to coaching in 2003 as an assistant coach for the now-defunct Hunter Pirates. About halfway through his first season with the team, head coach Bruce Palmer was fired and Simmons took over as the interim head coach. He went back to his assistant job during the 2004-2005 season.
5. His Longtime Friend David Patrick Is Ben’s Godfather and an Assistant Coach at LSU Where Ben Played.
David Patrick is the godfather of Ben Simmons and a longtime family friend of Dave Simmons. The two trained together when Simmons arrived in Australia and Patrick was still a kid. He became like a son to Simmons and a big brother to his children and lived with the family for a short time, according to NOLA.com.
Patrick served as a staff member of the Louisiana State University men’s basketball team for four years and the assistant head coach for head coach Johnny Jones his last two years. This past year, his godson Ben joined the team to play his only year of college hoods. It was also Patrick’s last year at LSU as he became the new assistant head coach at Texas Christian University in April.