When former City Councilman Joseph DiRosa ran for mayor of New Orleans in 1977-78, he offered Jesuit Athletic Director Frank Misuraca the position of Director of the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD).
The offer came with a stipulation: “You have to keep Firmin Simms on the payroll.”
Simms was one of the most powerful coaches at NORD. He coached some of the nation’s finest Biddy teams at Bunny Friend Playground and at St. Raphael School.
He led Biddy teams to national titles in 1967 and 1975 and became the president of the entire Biddy Basketball program, which grew to 60 boys’ and girls’ teams and nearly 600 teams by 1998.
DiRosa lost the election to Ernest “Dutch” Morial, and Misuraca remained at Jesuit until he retired.
For Simms, the joys of coaching ended in 2005 with the end of Biddy Basketball in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But at age 87, Firmin Simms has kept alive his dream of resurrecting the Biddy program, and perhaps the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Catholic Youth Organization may be the open door he is seeking.
The CYO has moved into its new quarters located in the Transfiguration of the Lord Parish gymnasium, a sparkling $6.2 million facility, located behind the site of the former St. Raphael School.
“Firmin and Jerry (Simms, Firmin’s son) approached me about having a permanent hometo run their leagues,” said CYO Director Joey Pistorius. “They were here before the storm and left about 1999.
“The goal is to allow them to use this gym to create their leagues again. One of the purposes of this building is to give back to the community. We just have to figure out time-share with our CYO programs, such as scouts, athletic coaches’ and team meetings, our young adult ministry and other programs,” Pistorius said.
The gymnasium houses seven offices on the second floor and one on the court level. To the rear of the building is a stage upon which to hold services. The building is raised high enough to avoid the possibility of future flooding. And it would answer the prayers of an old coach.
Ron Brocato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.