November 20, 2012

Simonds returns to St. Joseph's as an assistant

Rick Simonds, the Monks' coach for 23 seasons, will help Rob Sanicola, one of his ex-players.

By Steve Craig
Staff Writer

A trip to Japan helped Rick Simonds figure out it was time to come "home."

Simonds' protege, Rob Sanicola, helped pave the way.

On Monday the reunion was made official. Simonds, who went 466-176 in 23 seasons as the St. Joseph's College men's basketball coach, will be one of Sanicola's two assistant coaches.

"I'm ecstatic," Sanicola said. "Besides my father he's probably the most influential person in my life."

Sanicola played for Simonds from 1996-99 and was an assistant on Simonds' staff for the next four seasons. He became the Monks' head coach when Simonds resigned for personal reasons following the 2003 season.

For Simonds, the return tallows him to coach his son, sophomore guard Steve Simonds.

"I remember when we were recruiting Robbie and he came up with his dad and his dad said to me, 'I'm going to give you a boy and I'd like you return him to me as a man,"' Simonds said. "When Steve decided St. Joseph's was the right place for him, I said the same thing to Robbie."

From 1980 until 2003, Simonds never had a losing season and St. Joseph's won 11 conference titles while making six national tournament appearances.

In 2003, with assistants Sanicola and Mike Francoeur, Simonds led the Monks to a 20-5 record and their first appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament.

Then Simonds resigned.

"What happened was, to be as candid as possible without getting too deep into it, I got divorced," Simonds said. "My son lived with me and it's awfully difficult doing as much recruiting as I was doing. My son, was 11, going on 12. I couldn't be out night after night and leave him at home."

Simonds has kept actively involved with basketball.

He coached the Bonny Eagle boys' team for several seasons, stepping down when Steve reached the varsity level

He has also been the color commentator for Maine Red Claws.

Simonds said he will continue his relationship with the Red Claws and fulfill his announcing duties when there are no conflicts.

Off the court, Simonds teaches English and creative writing at Bonny Eagle. And what of that trip to Japan?

It happened this summer. Simonds was asked to coach a team of 13- to 15-year-old girls on an exchange program to Japan.

"I hadn't coached the past two or three years," Simonds said.

"We used the facilities at St. Joseph's a couple times for practices and I said to Rob that I'd forgotten how much I missed being on the floor."

That comment led Sanicola to eventually offer his mentor the assistant coaching job.

While the position was not announced until Monday, Simonds has been helping coach the team since practices began Oct. 15.

"It's great that we could bring him back in the mix," Sanicola said. "Our guys are excited about it. His reputation and his success are everywhere in this program. It's not like this is the first time they've heard of him."

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:


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