Despite bringing Wylie E. Groves High School in Beverly Hills, Mich., its first district title since 1988, first-year girls' basketball coach Ant-Juan Simpkins will not return for an encore due to parent complaints.
The Falcons finished the 2021 season 9-9, including two playoff victories. However, Simpkins received a letter from athletic director Thomas Flynn dated April 22, stating his appointment as head coach would not be renewed for the 2021-22 school year.
As reported by the USA Today Network's hometownlife.com, the letter indicates the decision came after a meeting between Simpkins, Flynn and Groves High School principal Susan Smith “to discuss your performance, as well as to allow you an opportunity to address concerns brought forward from program student-athletes and parents.”
Parents reached out to Flynn and Groves administration about Simpkins' performance and his behavior toward players on the team during the 2021 season.
“I’m totally amazed that Groves would hired a ‘thug’ to run the girls basketball team,” a Feb. 28 email, acquired by Hometown Life via the Freedom of Information Act, read.
“I honestly think Groves will not have a girls basketball team next year if you keep him and I know most definitely will not allow my child to play,” the email continued, accusing Simpkins of mental and “borderline” physical abuse.
Smith called the allegations “disturbing to read” and encouraged the sender to give her a call to discuss it further.
The parent told Smith, "if this coach finds out that I spoke with you before the season ends it will be some type of retaliation and my child already comes home in tears" every day.
Simpkins said he was made aware of the allegations, but that athletic director pushed the complaints aside and reassured him “you’re the best thing to happen for this program.”
Simpkins also said that Flynn remained on board with the changes he brought to the program, including sending varsity players to the JV level or to the bench and running what some players considered college-style practices, saying he was never reprimanded or counseled on any allegations made.
And not all feedback was entirely negative.
“Coach Simpkins holds our daughters accountable from the moment they step on the court, be it game or practice,” said one parent in an email. “As a parent, it’s hard to see your student athlete be held to such high standards.
“But I witnessed several of the girl’s basketball games the previous year under a different coaching staff and I acknowledge that his level of accountability elevated the entire team.”
Nonetheless, Groves announced that Allison Hidey — a former Dearborn Divine Child assistant coach who played college basketball at University of Michigan Dearborn — would replace Simpkins, who still remains the head coach of the Michigan Storm AAU team. He said he has "unequivocally" turned down offers to discuss returning to the high school level in Oakland County.
“We gave those kids every opportunity to be successful,” Simpkins said. “We brought a little bit of life to that program and it was sabotaged by squeaky politics. And that was unfair.”