Simeon Coach, Robert Smith, Retiring After Next Season

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File Photo by Kirsten Stickney

Simeon coach Robert Smith announced Wednesday he is retiring after next season. The Trojans have won four state championships and seven regional titles in his 18 seasons. Smith has a record of 252-62. Simeon plays at the University of Illinois, but its home field is Lane Tech HS in Chicago. Former NFL defensive end and current Michigan State assistant Mike Tressel will transition from offensive coordinator to head coach beginning with the 2020 season. We’ll see how that transition goes for both men next season…

Who is Robert Smith?

Robert Smith is one of the best coaches in the history of high school basketball. He’s been head coach at Simeon HS in Chicago since 1997, and has led the Trojans to a staggering 252 wins and only 62 losses over his 18-year career. He’s won four state championships and seven regional championships, and has never finished outside the top 10 in state rankings. He’s the rare high school coach who’s also a recognizable public figure, thanks to his presence at all-star games, AAU tournaments, and other high-profile youth basketball events. He is widely considered one of the best high school basketball coaches ever, and his team is one of the most dominant high school programs in American history.

The Simeon program

Simeon High School has been one of the powerhouses in Illinois basketball for decades, a team that’s regularly ranked among the top five programs in the state. The Trojans have never won less than 18 games in a season, and have only missed the postseason a handful of times since Simeon started playing basketball in 1930. Simeon has 12 top-five finishes in the state tournament, with two first-place finishes in 1935 and 1965. The Trojans have been coached by Robert Smith since 1997, and during that time they’ve established themselves as one of the most dominant high school programs in American history. Simeon has never won less than 18 games in a season with Smith at the helm, and has only missed the postseason three times in the last 24 years. Since he took over as head coach, Simeon has finished outside the top five in state rankings just twice, and has won seven regional championships.

Tressel’s task

Mike Tressel has been an assistant at Michigan State since 2007, and has been instrumental in the Spartans’ rise to the top of the college basketball world. Tressel, who is the son of former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, has been a key recruiter for the Spartans, helping them reel in one of the best classes in the country in 2019. He also has significant experience coaching at the high school level, having served as head coach at Colonel White High School in Dayton, Ohio from 1996 to 2002. Tressel won three state championships at Colonel White, and compiled a record of 157-27 during his tenure there. He’s taking a major step up by transitioning from the high school ranks to the college level, but he’s shown the ability to adapt and succeed at various levels of basketball.

Final Thoughts

This is an incredible story on a number of levels. Simeon is one of the best high school programs in history, and they’ve thrived in the face of endemic and systemic racism against black students in Chicago. And now, after 18 years of sustained excellence, they are being forced to replace their legendary head coach. The story of the transition from Smith to Tressel is an interesting one, and will be followed closely by fans and peers alike. Next season’s Simeon team is stacked with talent, and will be one of the favorites in the state regardless of who is coaching them.

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