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May 16, 2011

Murray State Hall gives Simpson a call

Byng — Alan Simpson has received many, many illustrious awards throughout his storied coaching career.

And he’s even a part of the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame (in 2004) and the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2009).

The veteran coach, who has spent over three decades at Byng High School, has just learned he will be inducted into the Murray State College Athletic Hall of Fame and he couldn’t be more proud of his latest honor.

“I am deeply touched by being selected to the Murray State Athletic Hall of Fame,” he said. “There are icons such as Gene Robbins and Wayne Cobb that are worthy members of this, and I am humbled to even be included with men of this stature. I am still puzzled how a very average player could even be considered for such and honor. I was a role player then, and I’ve basically been a role player the remainder of my life.”

Simpson will be recognized at the Murray State Alumni luncheon on June 4 at the college Student Union and will be a part of the induction ceremony some time this fall, likely in November.

Following his graduation from Hugo High School, Robbins recruited Simpson to the Tishomingo campus. At that time, the Aggies were a JUCO powerhouse. In 1968, Murray State finished with a 31-4 record and finished fourth at the national tournament. A year later, the Aggies went 29-5 and were third in the national tournament.

“I played a supporting role on an awesome team that had All-Americans Dale Blaut and Danny Hester in 1968,” Simpson recalled. Hester later  went on to start and play alongside Pistol Pete Maravich at LSU.

Simpson averaged five points per game in 1969 and played with All-American post player Mike Johnson.

“I had a few assists to him that year,” Simpson said.

Simpson vividly remembers the Aggies battling Burlington Junior College from Iowa in the semifinals of the national tournament. His assignment during that game — blanket Burlington star ‘Down-Town’ Freddie Brown, who came into the contest averaging 28 points per game.

“Coach told me to guard him and hold him below his average and we would win the game. I ‘held’ him to 27 and we lost by three. I felt like a bottle of Ripple at a wine-tasting convention that night. It was one of the longest nights of my life. But I DID hold him below his average,” Simpson said.

Brown would later become a first-team All-American at Iowa and a futre All-NBA selection for the NBA champion Seattle Super Sonics.

After leaving Murray State, Simpson attended East Texas State despite offers from Gonzaga and East Central University.

“Gonzaga, at the time, was a small school and not the power it is now,” he said. “I was recruited by legendary coach Jerry Anderson. This was a decision I later regretted, because coach Anderson was not only an awesome coach but also a very special individual.”

During his 24-year basketball coaching career, Simpson compiled a 476-198 record, an average of over 20 wins per season. He won Class 3A State championships in 1986 and 1992 and his Byng Pirates were runners-up in 1987. He was the Ada Evening News All-Area Boys Coach of the Year three times (1986, 1990 and 1992).

Simpson said he would always fondly remember those two years at Murray State.

“I will always be thankful for what Murray did for me, and I tell people all the time that two of the best years of my life were at Murray,” he said.

Simpson has been married to his wife, Kim, for almost 34 years. They have two children — Chelsea and Zac — who were both former standout basketball players at Byng High School. And both are planning on returning to Oklahoma after leaving the state after graduation.

“Chelsea and her husband, Doug, are moving to Oklahoma where he will work for Devon Energy. Zac graduates from Law School at Washington University in St. Louis and will work for Chesapeake Energy in Oklahoma,” Simpson said.

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