Simmons ends 20-year career at Johnson

(l-r) Johnson High School boys’ basketball coaches Colin Moore and Vern Simmons
Courtesy of Tara Ryan

After building one of the most successful high school boys’ basketball programs in state history over the past 20 years at St. Paul Johnson, Head Coach Vern Simmons has retired.

A retired officer from the St. Paul Police Department and native of Michigan City, Indiana, Simmons coached the Governors from 2000-2020, leading them to a City Conference championship this past season.

“Twenty years is enough,” Simmons said when announcing his retirement in the fall. “I’ve had a good run.”

Indeed, Simmons had one of the best runs in state history. He led the Governors to 15 City Conference championships (2004, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, ‘14 ’15, ’16, ’18, ’20), nine state tournament appearances (2004, ’06, ’07, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’15), and five Twin Cities title wins (2007, ’10, ’13, ’14, ’15).

Simmons’ best year came in 2010, when he led Johnson (with players Maxie Rosenbloom, Demetri Conwell, Estan Tyler, Roosevelt Scott, Marcus Marshall, Anthony Lee, Chris Smith-Bond, Donte Warlick, Prince Williams, Jordan Pluff, Xavier Henry, and Xavier Black) to a 32-0 and Class 3A state tournament championship using an 11-man rotation.

After an outstanding prep career as a point guard, Simmons played at NCAA Division II Morningside College from 1979-1983. His senior year he led his team to the 1983 NCAA Division II Final Four. The entire team was inducted into the school’s M-Club Hall of Fame in 2014.

Simmons joined the St. Paul City Police Department in 1990, spending most of his career as a school resource officer at Johnson until his retirement in 2017.

Colin Moore, a community and cultural specialist in the St. Paul Public Schools and an assistant coach for Simmons the past decade and a half, will take over the program. “He was not only my mentor as a coach, he was like a big brother,” Moore said of Simmons. “He will be missed, but his impact on the program remains.”