KANSAS CITY -- “Everybody’s blowing me up,” Lionel Simmons was saying, standing in a hallway outside of the La Salle locker room on Friday evening. The Explorers had just won their second NCAA Tournament game and Simmons motioned to his phone and started reeling off the names: Bobby Johnson, Jack Hurd, Craig Conlin, Bron Holland, more. He said a bunch of them were getting together in Philadelphia to celebrate. He sounded a little bit wistful that he was missing it, but just a little.
The L-Train -- who, along with Tom Gola, is the definition of La Salle basketball royalty -- made the first stop in Dayton and the next stop here. He is in the stands, badgering the officials. He is in the locker room, interacting with the current players, the living, breathing example of what La Salle can be. After 21 years away from the tournament, it is a time that he can appreciate more than most.
“I’m very proud,” Simmons said. “It’s been a complete turnaround. John (Giannini) has done a great job with the program. The players believe in each other, care for each other. It’s just a great feeling right now for us...
“Everybody likes a winner and now these guys are rolling. We’ve been through some tough times but now it’s turned. I’m just really proud of them. They played hard and deserve the credit.”