As the head girls basketball coach for 17 years at Ayala High School, Mel Sims has seen his share of games on the hardwood. It’s the lack of soccer games, among other things, that led him to a decision to retire from coaching on Thursday.
“I’ve got a daughter on the soccer team who I saw play one game all of last year,” Sims said. “I’ve had 35 great years but at some point you’ve got to choose between work and family. I’ve been neglecting my family for too long.”
Sims, 69, has coached the Ayala girls to 14 consecutive Sierra League titles, leading the Bulldogs to a CIF championship in 2007 before a triple-overtime loss cost them a berth in the state championship game. He also won a CIF title in 1990 coaching the Pasadena Muir girls.
The three-time CIF coach of the year has a career record of 583-164 that includes four trips to the CIF finals. Ayala, which hasn’t lost to a Sierra League foe at home in 70 games, reached the CIF Division 1A semifinals in Sims’ last season before losing to eventual champion Santa Monica.
After stints at Ganesha, Muir, Monrovia and Alta Loma High Schools following seven years as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton, Sims took over a struggling Ayala program in 1992. Three years later, the Bulldogs won the first of 14 straight league championships during which they went 137-3 in league play.
“It only took three years to get on top and we’ve been there ever since,” Sims said. “I’m most proud of the consistency we showed as a program. We weren’t some flash in the pan — win one year and down the next — we were a factor in the playoffs every year and that’s the mark of quality.”
Sims can’t imagine considering a scenario in which he would return to coaching. Even the recently vacated head coaching position for the Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball team doesn’t pique his interest given the extensive travel and recruiting requirements that would keep him from his family.
During 17 years at Ayala Sims has has no small impact on the college game as 22 Ayala
players have been granted college scholarships under his tutelage. Sisters Rebekah and Rhema Gardner will be a junior and a freshman, respectively, at UCLA in the fall. Jasmin Holliday will be a junior at Oregon next season.
“I’m an old guy,” Sims said. “I feel great but I feel like now is the right time. The time is never really right but you’ve got to make a decision. My goal is to see my daughter play in every soccer game this year.”
A list of Mel Sims’ accomplishments:
- 7 Years as Head Girl’s Basketball Coach
- 17 straight CIF qualifications
- Took last place team to first place in 3 years
- 397 wins at Ayala
- 14 consecutive Sierra League championships (current)
- 70 consecutive league victories
- 70 consecutive home league victories (current)
- 137-3 past 14 years in Sierra League
- 11 Undefeated Sierra League10-0 seasons past 14 years
- 3 one loss 9-1 seasons past 14 seasons
- CIF 2AA championship 2007
- CIF 2AA Runner-up 2008
- Southern California Regional Runner-up 2008
- 4 times semi-finalists
- Qualified for State Playoffs past 4 consecutive years.
- CIF Coach of the Year 2007
- 8 times Ayala on state’s top 25
- 22 players who played at Ayala received college scholarships.
- Current players on scholarship:
- Rebekah Gardner – (c/o 2007) UCLA
- Jasmin Holliday -(c/o 2007) Univ. of Oregon
- Brianna Beridon – (c/o 2009) Cal Poly Pomona
- Rhema Gardner – (c/o 2010) UCLA
- Krishawn Tillett – (c/o 2010) West Point
Career High Points and Honors
- Career Coaching record of 583-164
- NCAA Men’s Elite 8
- State Girl’s Basketball Finalist
- Twice C.I.F. Girl’s Basketball Champions
- Four times C.I.F. Basketball Finalist
- Six times C.I.F semi-Finalist
- Twelve time C.I.F. Quarter-Finalists
- Three times C.I.F. Coach of the Year
- Eight times team in top 25 in the state
- Women’s Professional Basketball Head Coach (California Dreams)
- 7 years collegiate men’s assistant coach (Cal St. Fullerton)