Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Eight-year-long haul

SPU women’s basketball coach recounts career journey
Seattle Pacific University women’s basketball head coach Mike Simonson watches his players run the court during practice on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, in Seattle. (Rio Giancarlo)

Coaches work behind the scenes, on the sidelines and in the back or upstairs offices to cultivate the success and mentality of their team. Mike Simonson, head coach for the Seattle Pacific University women’s basketball team, is in his eighth year supporting and contributing to the success of the Falcons.

In his time with SPU, Simonson has sought nothing less than the best for his athletes and their program.

“It’s been a long haul at SPU. I spent two years as an assistant coach and this is my sixth year as head coach. I was a Washington State Cougar graduate, and then I coached men’s basketball at Washington State for about five years before coming out to SPU,” Simonson said.

Simonson was initially hesitant about transitioning to SPU but found himself to be an ideal fit for the team.

“I was looking at a bunch of opportunities to get back to Seattle. One of my mentors reached out and told me there was an assistant coaching job for the women’s basketball program here at SPU,” Simonson said. “At first, I thought, ‘Ah, that’s a big change. I don’t know if I want to go from men’s to women’s basketball,’ but as I thought about SPU, how amazing of a school it is and the pedigree of its athletic programs, it made me excited about coming to coach at SPU, regardless of the big change.”

When he first arrived in Seattle, Simonson thought he had everything figured out, even though he had never held a head coaching position.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” Simonson said. “When you’re an assistant coach, you think you got all the answers, but in my first year, we weren’t very good. I had this big vision of how I wanted our team to play, and I found out that first year that the system I put in wasn’t going to work very well.” 

With his initial plans revealed ineffective, Simonson had to revamp his approach and overall coaching style.

“I’ve always been a big x’s and o’s guy, I wanted us to play fast with a quick tempo, like every coach wants to do in the country. What I learned is to play at that speed and level, you need to have the proper fundamentals, ” Simonson said. “Focusing on the little things was a big change. I became a bit of an old-school-type of coach, even though I was a new brain coming into the game at the time.”

Simonson explained the struggle of his first year taught him a lot about how he wanted to coach at SPU.

“I had to learn trial-by-fire as head coach,” Simonson said. “That’s the beauty of it, you get to learn along the way and I would say I have learned a lot and grown as a head coach here at SPU.”

Where he is now, Simonson remains grateful to his faith for allowing him to persevere and become the coach he is.

“What I think is cool is faith and how God directs you and puts you into your certain calling. I knew from day one that I was a good fit for women’s basketball,” Simonson said. “My temperament, positivity and high energy just fit in that first practice. Faith opens a door you’re not even looking into, and then you realize, ‘Okay, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’” 

Simonson loves bonding with and witnessing his athletes grow from novices to young women.

“I love to do a lot of off-the-court things for motivation. We do this [one] thing when we hold a team under 55 points called ‘burgering the team.’ The team gets these burger pins on their backpacks and things like that along the way that go into morale and motivation,” Simonson said. “Starting all that was a big thing my first year.”

Besides coaching, Simonson is a fan and hobbyist of golf, boxing and marathoning. Once the team enters its off-season this spring, Simonson hopes to fall back into his interests.

“I am a big golfer in the off-season [and] I used to run a lot … Boxing, I think, is a really interesting sport [with] a lot of intricacies,” Simonson said. “They’re all very skill-based. I think it’s that element of mental toughness along with physical toughness that draws me to those sports. Probably my favorite things to do on a Saturday night is to get done with [work], go home[,] watch the big fight.”

Simonson values being able to witness and experience the many stages of life through coaching.

“The cool part about careers and journeys is how I’ve gotten to see how life intertwines through our team and our players and seeing our young girls come in and become women,” Simonson said. “That’s what’s crazy about coaching all these college kids: all the twists and turns that life has.”

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About the Contributors
Uriah Aguon, Sports Editor
Uriah is a junior English: Creative Writing major. He has been with the Falcon since his freshman year, starting as a features writer, and is now the sports editor. Uriah hopes to remain on the Falcon staff throughout his time at SPU and continue writing in journalism following graduation.
Rio Giancarlo, Chief Photographer
Rio is a sophomore visual communication major with a minor in photography. Rio manages a team of photographers and illustrators to supply content for the greater SPU media groups. Before he took his current position he worked as a staff photographer, mostly covering sports. When not working for The Falcon he works for the SPU athletic department and as a freelance photographer. In his free time you can find him skiing, or wishing he was skiing. 
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