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Brandon-Evansville girls' basketball: Chargers deliver 500th win for coach Simpson

Eric Morken, Echo Press Brandon-Evansville head coach Dick Simpson worked the sideline at a game in Osakis earlier this year.

Brandon-Evansville head girls' basketball coach Dick Simpson has learned exactly what it takes to excel as a high school coach in his more than 30 years on the job.

"You have to have good players," he said. "A good dog and an understanding wife. Probably in that order."

Simpson has been fortunate to have all three over his career. Last Thursday night that helped put him in an elite category amongst his peers when he became the 12th girls' high school coach in Minnesota history to reach 500 wins.

The Chargers went into the evening on a mission to get that win for their head coach. Junior Heather Strese and senior Heather Dickey led by example as Brandon-Evansville overcame a slow start to both halves to hold off the Battlers 52-46. The two veterans made sure Simpson did not have to wait another night by combining for 40 points and 20 rebounds

"When we were in our team huddle, we just said, 'Let's do this for Mr. S,' " Strese said. "He really wants it, and we really want to get it for him. Everyone just put everything in to get it for Mr. S."

Simpson was quick to defer the attention back on his players after the game. He was awarded a commemorative basketball and plaque in a ceremony. He took the microphone to address the crowd and gave almost all the credit to his players, past and present.

But those who have worked and played for him say it's more than that. Jim Rolf has been an assistant with Simpson since he took the girls' head coaching job at Brandon in 1986. He has seen first hand the kind of commitment Simpson has to teaching the game.

"He works very, very hard at it," Rolf said. "He works at it year around. He comes over almost every day all summer and we talk basketball. He studies, he's got many books. We can be doing new drills the last practice that we haven't done all year, which is really good I think."

That knowledge of the game and his calm demeanor make him enjoyable to play for, Strese said. Simpson has never been the type to let his frustrations boil over on the sideline or during practices.

"I just think he's very composed," Strese said. "He never yells, but he tells you how it is. If he wants you to do something, he flat out tells you. The way he sets up practices, he has everything organized. He knows what to tell us at the right times."

That has come from countless hours of studying the game. When Simpson is not coaching basketball, he is likely watching or reading about it. That has helped when it comes to getting the most out of his players.

The teaching side of the game is what Simpson said he enjoys most about the job. Strese said he stresses drills that help perfect different fundamentals of the game, demanding his players do them correctly before they quit. That same persistence is a trait that has helped him last for so long in a position where some coaches simply burn out.

"We all run out of patience sometimes," Rolf said. "But he has quite a bit. He's pretty much respectful at all times, and he has a good sense of humor. There's a limit on turnovers, but for the most part he's pretty calm in practice. Even though there are standards he likes to [abide] by."

Simpson always comes back to the players he has coached as the reason for his success, though. He has had plenty of good ones that have made for some memorable seasons. Included in that was a state tournament title in 1999.

"Johnny Wooden always said, 'You can't win without them,' " Simpson said of having so many good players. "You can lose with them, but if you don't have them, you're not going to win."

He has won much more than he has lost with them. His career winning percentage sat at .659 after moving to 500-258 with the win over Battle Lake.

It is a win total that will likely keep climbing in the coming years.

"As long as they want me to do it, I'll do it," Simpson said of his coaching future. "Like Jim Rolf says, when basketball practice starts it's November and when basketball season's over, spring is here. I don't want to go south for the winter so I might as well coach basketball."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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