Sims makes successful debut as Fairfield’s head coach

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Fairfield High School senior guard Andre Givens talks about the Indians' 58-52 triumph at St. Xavier last Saturday.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Jeff Sims has traveled a long coaching road in the Fairfield City School District to reach the top position in the boys basketball program.

And he’s undefeated.

The Indians kicked off the Sims era with a 58-52 victory at St. Xavier last weekend. Another first will come Friday night when Fairfield hosts Mason for a Greater Miami Conference opener.

“If we win one more, I told (athletic director) Mark (Harden) the other day that I might just fake an injury and be done,” Sims said. “I won two tennis matches as a coach. I covered for a guy and didn’t ever coach again, so I’m technically the only undefeated tennis coach in Fairfield history.”

He knows beating Mason, 2-0 and the two-time defending GMC champion, will be a tall order. But Sims likes his group’s potential.

Sims, 49, said he’s still learning how to operate as the head man after 25 years in various levels of the system.

He pointed out that he’s coached at some level under every FHS head coach since getting hired by Ron Chasteen, who was followed at the helm by Dave Bauer, Matt Wissman, Kurt Etter, Tim Austing, John Cecere and Harden.

“I’ve told everybody I’m a pretty old rookie,” said Sims, a 1985 graduate of Lincoln County High School in Stanford, Ky. “It’s been fun. It’s new stuff. Once the game starts, how long you’ve been the head coach doesn’t really matter. But there’s a different feel for it when you’re getting ready for a game.

“It was never my job to go in and be a motivational guy before a game. I was always the one adding things. Now I’m the one that has to take charge.”

Sims said the Indians’ lower levels are strong, so the program’s future is bright. He believes this year’s varsity can make some noise, despite lacking significant experience.

Devonte Ross (17), Andre Givens (15) and Blake Spaulding (13) were the leading scorers against St. X. Ross, a Lakota West transfer, didn’t play last season. Givens and Spaulding combined for 72 total points in 2015-16.

“I’m a defensive player,” said Givens, a 6-foot senior guard. “I get steals. I see a wide-open steal, and I go down the court and lay it up. When the team gets me open to take the 3, I take the 3. Ben (Phillips) sets good screens and gets me wide open for the back door.”

Givens collected five steals, three assists and three rebounds against the Bombers. Ross grabbed nine boards, while Phillips added seven.

The Indians got in some foul trouble, yet only committed eight turnovers. St. X put up 23 points in the second quarter.

“I had a bunch of alumni text me and say, ‘Are we still playing defense at Fairfield?’ ” Sims said. “We were being active. We just weren’t being smart about it. But if we kept the pressure on, eventually I thought we could break through.

“We didn’t do everything right. We just toughed it out. I like us because I think we’ll always play hard. I think we’ll play unselfishly. And putting that Fairfield jersey on is important to them. That’s what I want because it’s important to me.

“I’ve always been a Fairfield guy, and I think the coaching staff is that way. Everybody on our staff except for me and (varsity assistant) Steve Hartings are Fairfield graduates. And my mom graduated from Fairfield in 1960.”

Sims said Fairfield will be a full-court defensive team from time to time, though he can’t describe himself as a pressing coach.

“If you take the press off as soon as you give up a layup, you’re not a pressing coach,” Sims said. “I just can’t give up layups. But we want to pressure you. We want to make you feel like you’re uncomfortable. We’re versatile, we’re athletic, we can spread you out, and we really want to hang our hat on defense.

“Ben Phillips is an outstanding leader on this team. I think when you’ve got good senior leaders, it doesn’t matter about the experience as much.”

The Indians have lost their last three matchups against Mason. The Comets opened the season with wins over Kentucky foe Cooper (70-59) and Loveland (76-51).

“Mason is the team that just shows up every night. That’s why they’ve got the best chance to win the league. They don’t usually lay an egg,” Sims said. “They know what they do, they spread the scoring out, and Greg Richards is probably the best coach in the league. He’s just phenomenal in what he does.”

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