American University picks George Mason asst. basketball coach to lead Eagles

American University has hired D.C. native Duane Simpkins as its head basketball coach after eight seasons spent on George Mason’s staff, the university confirmed Saturday.

Simpkins comes to the university after several seasons at D.C. area basketball programs at the collegiate and K-12 levels. Before this new position, he was the assistant basketball coach at George Mason University.

He’ll replace recently-fired coach Mike Brennan at American University, who was let go after 10 seasons spent leading the team.

In a news release, American University Director of Athletics and Recreation Billy Walker praised the decision to bring Simpkins on as the new head coach.

“His close ties to the area as a coach and player, along with a tremendous recruiting acumen and unbending character, make him an ideal choice to lead our program,” Walker said. “Duane is truly a changemaker.”

9 Dec 1995: Guard Duane Simpkins #10 of the Maryland Terrapins carries out the play against the zone defense of the UCLA Bruins at the John Wooden Classic at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California. UCLA defeated Maryland 73-63. Mandatory Credit: Al Be

Simpkins has been called a legendary and impactful coach for the region. His coaching history stretched through the University of North Carolina’s Greensboro campus and up to Towson University, where he served as coordinator of basketball operations.

Before then, he was a lauded  basketball player in the D.C. region, earning All-American honors at DeMatha High School under indelible Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wooten before playing collegiately at the University of Maryland, College Park — he became the eighth-ranked all-time player for the Terps.

He concluded his professional career internationally after playing with the Shandong Tigers in Shandong, China and the Memphis Grizzlies in the Summer Pro League.

Simpkins also held coaching positions at several D.C. area high schools, including St. Albans School, Sidwell Friends School and Bishop O’Connell High School.

WTOP’s Ciara Wells, Frank Hanrahan, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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