During the KSHSAA required “Buffer Week”, no high school teams are allowed to meet, practice or even do conditioning. The Southeast High School Boys Basketball team planned to practice the following Monday, but the gym wasn’t going to be available for very long. The junior high was hosting games on the newly painted SHS courts, so the new SHS boys coach gave his team the afternoon off.
He explained why that night at the player-parent meeting that night:
“I’m the type of guy that when I get started, I don’t really like to stop. So, I thought I’d give you guys an extra day off - but don’t thank me yet,” Coach Timothy Simpson told the players. “Tomorrow begins a new era. Tomorrow, we start working on some of those goals we talked about. Tomorrow — for the lack of better words — the gates of Hell have just opened…”
That’s when the team went silent.
“… You’re going to hear terms like ‘Excalibur’.”
And that’s when the Lancers who had attended offseason conditioning started groaning.
Coach Simpson turned to the parents – “Your kids are going to come home complaining – ‘coach is crazy’”.
Then he turned to his players - “But who’s doing those drills with you?”
“You are, Coach.”
“I’m 37 years old. I have two discs in my back that slip out whenever they want to after being thrown in the back of a Humvee from a bomb. I have two shoulders that will separate at any given time because I’ve dislocated them several times. I’ve got a jacked up hip, ankles, knees and guess what? I’m still out there doing everything with you.”
Coach Simpson played basketball for, and graduated from, Independence High School in 1997. He went to Neosho County Community College, where he played basketball and was a member of the KJCCC East Division Championship teams in 1997-98 and 1998-99. After a short time at McPherson College, he joined the military.
The former member of the 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry, Simpson was deployed four times — twice to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq. Multiple concussions and injuries forced Simpson off the frontline. As he recovered, he returned to basketball. He played for an all-Army basketball team — the 10th Mountain Division Triple Deuce Basketball Team, and eventually became an assistant coach for the team.
Simpson isn’t the only SHS coach with a military background. His assistant coach, Marcus Rhodes grew up in Colorado, moved to Kansas, then joined the military after graduating high school. He too served in Afghanistan. After serving, Rhodes played basketball for Pittsburg State, where he is finishing his degree. But the Southeast freshmen and sophomores are familiar with Rhodes — who coached at the Southeast Junior High the past two seasons.
“I spent 10 years serving our great country with the United States Army,” Coach Simpson said at the meeting. “I got a chance to serve with a lot of great men and women.”
For more than 30 years, Coach Simpson’s father has been the Pastor of Lighthouse Temple Ministries in Pittsburg. So, Simpson came to Pittsburg and has spent the past three years at the Pittsburg Community Middle School — both as a coach and as the In School Suspension supervisor.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of ‘behavior issues’ for the last 15-17 years,” Simpson joked.
His wife, LaVerne, works for the Pittsburg Schools as a school nurse at Meadowlark Elementary School. Simpson has two teenage daughters and a three year old son. He is now an assistant pastor, youth pastor and chief marshall for his father’s Temple.
Family is important to Simpson, and it is that mentality that he hopes to continue to cultivate at Southeast.
“All of you have different talent levels. The true superstars are the ones that help make their teammates better, not just on the court but off the court,” Simpson told is players. “That’s what I want to build because like I said before, we’re a family so we’re going to treat each other that way.”
“Not only are we going to work on the court, we’re going to work in the classroom. There’s going to be no disrespecting the teachers, administration, parents — I don’t have that. Because not only are you representing this school, you are also representing me.”
Coach Simpson informed parents that he would stay in contact with them and he would be checking up on the players regularly, saying he will be talking to teachers and administrators asking how his players are doing in class.
“I do those things not because I’m looking for you to do something — I do it because I want to hear good things," Coach Simpson said. “I want to see how you’re doing. I want to know if there is a problem, and if there’s something I can do to resolve that before it becomes a major problem. That’s very important to me.
“There’s one thing you need to know about me. I care a lot. I’m not just here to coach basketball — that’s not how I view myself — I’m not a coach solely. I want to teach these young men the things that they’re going to need in order to survive and live.
“When we have conversations we don’t just talk basketball. We talk about things like ‘What do you plan on doing with your life? What are your goals?’ Because I can attest to this: when the game is through with you, what are you going to do? Whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, track, whatever you do, what are you going to do
after that? If you don’t have a game plan you’re going to make life very hard for yourself. Trust me, I know because I experienced it.”
Coach Simpson said that while he likes to keep things intense, he also likes to keep it light because the players have enough to worry about during the game. He said there is a time for fun and work, and the players will learn when joke time is over.
“(Senior Sam Holsinger) started complaining after he found out I was coaching — he said ‘oh my God, he just looks like he’s going to have us running!’” Coach told parents.
Coach Simpson said the lineman in football will not have to worry about running from post to post.
“We’re going to give him a golf cart,” Coach Simpson joked. “But I’m not worried about Sam because Sam’s got something I know a lot of these guys do have and that is heart. I’ve seen it in these guys faces and that’s why I’m so excited because I know these guys are ready to come out and work. That’s why I’m very excited about this year.”