Some people spend decades trying to find their right career path. Todd Simon decided on his as a kid and stuck with it.
“I was probably 10 years old when I realized this is what I wanted to do,” Simon said. “I knew I wasn’t going to have a future playing the game. I got an early start in coaching.”
About 10 years after landing his first job as a high school basketball assistant, Simon, 32, has accepted a position as an assistant to UNLV coach Dave Rice, who announced the hiring Monday night.
Simon spent last season as the head coach at Findlay Prep. He replaces Justin Hutson, who left Rice’s staff on April 12 to return to San Diego State.
“I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve always maintained it was going to be tough to leave Findlay. My fingerprints were all over it, and it was something to be proud of,” Simon said. “I’ve got a huge love for UNLV and a huge love for Vegas, and where Coach Rice is taking the program is a special place.”
UNLV had 146 applicants for the job, and Simon was one of four finalists to be interviewed. Rice said Simon’s “strong recruiting ties” and his ability to work with Rebels assistants Stacey Augmon and Heath Schroyer indicated there could be improved staff chemistry.
“For a variety of reasons, I think Todd is the perfect fit to complement the rest of the staff,” Rice said. “You can’t underestimate his passion for UNLV.”
Simon earned his bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan and a master’s from UNLV in 2010.
The Pilots finished 35-1 under Simon last season. He was an assistant at Findlay from 2006 to 2012, and previous to that he was the Rebels’ video coordinator for two years under former coach Lon Kruger.
“I talked to Coach Kruger for a long time about Todd,” Rice said. “The way I talk about Todd is, no job is too big for him but no job is too small. He can do a little of everything.”
Simon took over the Findlay program last year after Michael Peck left to coach the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League. In Peck’s five seasons, with Simon as associate head coach, the Pilots compiled a 157-8 record and won three National High School Invitational titles in four years.
Peck and Simon recruited Anthony Bennett to Findlay. Bennett, who led UNLV to a 25-10 record last season as a freshman, was the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in last week’s NBA Draft.
Simon also coached Chris Wood, who will be a freshman forward for the Rebels this season.
“I think you need to have multiple pros to compete for a national championship, and UNLV is getting that type of kid,” Simon said. “It’s a storied program right on the cusp of breaking through.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.