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On Thursday, Oct. 24, the Michigan State women's basketball program held its annual media day at Breslin Center.
Michigan State vs. Marist - AP Photos
Suzy Merchant just completed her sixth season as head coach of the Michigan State women's basketball program. Through her first six seasons, Merchant has brought the Spartan program to a level of consistency at the Big Ten and national level. The Spartans have finished third or better in the Big Ten in each of the last five seasons, and her conference record of 69-33 (67.6%) is the 12th-best career winning percentage in the 31-year history of the Big Ten, and is the second highest percentage among active coaches. Nationally, the Spartans have won at least 20 games in each of her six seasons and are one of 19 teams nationally to have advanced to the last five NCAA Tournaments.
She was hired at MSU on April 30, 2007, after spending time as a head coach at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98). In her 18 years as a head coach, she has won more than 65-percent of her games, collecting a 341-182 (.652) career record, including 140-62 (.693) in her six seasons in East Lansing. Merchant became the fastest Spartan coach to 100 wins. She is also the winningest coach in Eastern Michigan history, compiling a 147-91 record in her nine seasons.
Through her first six seasons at MSU, 20 Spartans have earned All-Big Ten recognition (the most in the conference) and 30 have been named Academic All-Big Ten. A pair of Spartans have earned major Big Ten awards - Kalisha Keane was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2010-11, following up the Sixth Player of the Year award as a junior, while Lykendra Johnson (2010-11) and Allyssa DeHaan (2009-10) were named Big Ten Defensive Players of the Year. DeHaan, who finished her career second all-time in NCAA history in blocked shots, and Keane were also named All-Americans following their senior seasons.
This season, Michigan State overcame adversity to post 20 wins for the 10th straight seasons, going 25-9, the third-most wins in program history. The Spartans qualified to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth-straight season, tying for the longest streak in school history, and advanced to the second round. MSU went 10-6 in Big Ten play to tie for third and won at least 10 conference games for the 11th straight season. They made it to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game for the first time under Merchant and for just the second time in program history. Three Spartans earned All-Big Ten honors with junior Klarissa Bell being named to the third team, and senior Jasmine Thomas and sophomore Kiana Johnson added as honorable mention selections. Also, the team had a program record seven Academic All-Big Ten honors.
Last season, the Spartans continued their string of 20-win seasons, going 20-12 and advancing to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. MSU went 11-5 in conference play to tie for second in the Big Ten. Seniors Lykendra Johnson and Porsche Poole earned second team All-Big Ten accolades. With the win over Oakland (Nov. 27) last season, Merchant became the fastest head coach to 100 wins as a Spartan, needing only 143 games.
Merchant put her stamp on the Spartan program during the 2010-11 season, leading the Spartans to their first outright Big Ten title in school history. MSU went 13-3, winning the conference by two games. The Spartans went 27-6, recording the second most wins in program history, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round. Merchant was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the conference's coaches and media, becoming the third Spartan coach to earn that honor.
In 2009-10, Merchant topped the 20-win plateau for sixth-straight season and for the seventh time in her career. The Spartans advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round and finished the regular season second in the Big Ten for the second-straight season. In addition to the two major award winners, four Spartans were named All-Big Ten and Lauren Aitch was the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner, the first MSU women's basketball player to earn the award.
During the 2008-09 season, the Spartans earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 with wins over No. 1-seed Duke and No. 8-seed Middle Tennessee; Merchant's first career NCAA Tournament win. She led the Spartans to a 13-5 record in the Big Ten, tying them for second in the conference. The wins tie for the second most in program history, while the finish is the best since the 2004-05 Big Ten Champions. Six Spartans earned postseason Big Ten accolades, led by Allyssa DeHaan taking home second team All-Big Ten honors. After the season, Merchant was named the Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM) Women's College Coach of the Year for the second time in her career.
In the summer of 2009, Merchant spent time with USA Basketball as an assistant coach for the Women's World University Games team in Belgrade, Serbia. Team USA went undefeated and took home the Gold medal, topping Russia, 83-64 in the championship game.
In her first season at Michigan State, Merchant took the youngest team in the Big Ten to its seventh-straight postseason trip, advancing to the championship game of the WNIT, and tied for the most wins (23) by a first-year Spartan basketball coach in MSU history. The 23 wins tied for the fourth-winningest season in program history and also tied a career-high for Merchant. In addition, the Spartans won 10 conference games for the sixth consecutive season and advanced to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals for the fifth-straight year. Individually, Allyssa DeHaan earned first team All-Big Ten honors, while a pair of freshmen - Kalisha Keane and Brittney Thomas - were honorable mention all-conference and on the All-Freshman Team.
In her first six years in the Greater Lansing area, Merchant has gone to great lengths to become an integral part of the community. In her time off the court and out of the office, Merchant can be seen at many community service events in the Great Lansing area. She has been an Honorary Chair for numerous events, including the Ele's Place, Sparrow Foundation's Hike for Hospice, Women Working Wonders, MSU Children's Health Initiative, Women's Center of Lansing, Haven House, Ronald McDonald House, Advent House Ministries, Old Newsboys' Shoe and Coat Drive, and Muscular Dystrophy Association.
During her tenure with the Eagles, Merchant guided Eastern Michigan to a record of 147-91 (.618), including three 20-win seasons, three postseason appearances and two Mid-American Conference West Division titles. Before coaching at Eastern Michigan, Merchant spent three seasons at Saginaw Valley State, posting a 54-29 (.651) record. Prior to becoming a head coach, Merchant was the top assistant for three years at Oakland University (1992-95).
A four-year starter and three-year captain at Central Michigan (1987-91), Merchant holds Chippewa records for assists with 463 and single-season assists with 156, and is tied for first in single-game assists with 11. She also finished her career third-best in made 3-point field goals with 75.
A native of Traverse City, Mich., Merchant was a three-sport standout at Traverse City Central High School, lettering in basketball, volleyball and softball. She earned honorable mention All-America honors by USA Today and was a two-time Class A all-state selection in basketball. She also earned all-state honors in volleyball. During the summer of 2010, she was inducted into the Traverse City Central H.S. Hall of Fame.
THE MERCHANT FILE
PREVIOUS COACHING EXPERIENCE: Assistant Coach at Oakland University (1992-95); Head Coach at Saginaw Valley State University (1995-98); Head Coach at Eastern Michigan University (1998-2007).
FAMILY: Husband, Gary Rakan and sons, Tyler and Brady Rakan.
COACHING RECORD: 341-182 (.652) in 18 years as a head coach [54-29 in three years at Saginaw Valley State University (1995-98); 147-91 in nine years at Eastern Michigan University (1998-2007); 140-62 in six seasons at Michigan State]; 64-23 record as assistant coach at Oakland.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in health/fitness from Central Michigan in 1991; master's degree in educational leadership from Saginaw Valley State in 2000.
PLAYING EXPERIENCE: Four-year starter and three-year captain at Central Michigan (1987-91).
POSTSEASON EXPERIENCE: 1997 NCAA Division II Tournament, 2004 NCAA Tournament, 2005 WNIT, 2006 WNIT, 2008 WNIT, 2009 NCAA Sweet 16, 2010 NCAA Second Round, 2011 NCAA Second Round, 2012 NCAA Tournament, 2013 NCAA Tournament Second Round.
INTERNATIONAL COACHING EXPERIENCE: Won Gold as an assistant coach with USA Basketball at the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia.
MERCHANT'S YEAR-BY-YEAR HEAD COACHING RECORD
* Missed all but four games of 2006-07 while on maternity leave.
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