EAST LANSING, Mich. -Suzy Merchant, who spent the past nine years as the head coach at Eastern Michigan, has been named the head coach of the women's basketball program at Michigan State, Athletics Director Ron Mason announced Monday. The winningest coach in Eastern Michigan history, Merchant was formally introduced at a Monday afternoon press conference in the Berkowitz Basketball Complex auxiliary gym.
During her tenure with the Eagles, Merchant, 37, 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. Merchant, who coached for three years at Saginaw Valley State prior to EMU, owns a 201-120 (.626) career record in 12 years as a head coach.
Merchant's 2003-04 Eastern Michigan team claimed the MAC West Division and MAC Tournament championships for the first time in school history, earning the program's first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament en route to a 22-8 record. She followed that impressive season by winning 23 games in 2004-05, the most in school history, and sent EMU to the postseason for the second straight year with a WNIT appearance.
In 2005-06, the Eagles reached the 20-win plateau for the third consecutive season and won their second MAC West title with a 15-1 conference record, notching the most league wins in school history. Their 22-8 overall record put them into the postseason for the third straight year as the Eagles earned a bid to the WNIT. While on maternity leave for most of last season, Merchant's Eagles finished second in the MAC West Division with a 10-6 league record and finished 16-13 overall.
"I commend Ron Mason for conducting a thoroughly successful search process, one built upon the values not only of intercollegiate athletics, but of the total university," said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.
"The selection of Suzy Merchant reflects a shared commitment to enhancing a program through combining hard work with a sense of family. She has a passion for building programs through mutual respect and the brand of work ethic we value here. It is not surprising, then, to hear her say that MSU is her dream job surely for geographical reasons, but also for professional and philosophical ones. Suzy Merchant not only has deep roots in Michigan; she has deep roots in the values and standards of MSU. We welcome her to Team MSU. "
"We are extremely pleased to have Suzy Merchant as our new women's head basketball coach," said MSU Athletics Director Ron Mason. "She is a Michigan native, who has worked tirelessly the past 15 years including the last 12 years as a head coach. She is a proven winner, who has the necessary skill set to take a wonderful program at MSU and continue to lead it to greater heights. Her ties to the state and region along with her energy, enthusiasm and commitment to developing young women, both on and off the court, make Suzy a terrific fit for Spartan women's basketball. We look forward to the Merchant era and ask all Spartans to provide her family and staff with a tremendous welcome to East Lansing and the MSU community."
"I'm so excited about this opportunity that it really hasn't sunk in yet," Merchant said. "Perhaps it will after I have a chance to meet the team later this morning. Growing up in Michigan and having family that attended Michigan State, I can tell you that this is my dream job.
"Women's basketball has gone to the next level at Michigan State. A great foundation has been laid, not only in terms of winning but also in terms of the great fan base that has been built. The game-day environment in the Breslin Center is truly special and people around the state and around the country have taken notice. It's exciting to know how the campus and the people in the community have embraced this basketball program to create that atmosphere.
"There's a lot of talent returning for next year's team, and I know that an outstanding recruiting class is on its way. I know that expectations will be high, and I welcome the challenge of taking this program to new heights."
Before coaching at Eastern Michigan, Merchant spent three seasons at Saginaw Valley State, recording a 54-29 record. After inheriting a team with a losing record, Merchant quickly built the SVSU program into a winner, going 15-11 in her first season before going 19-11 in year two while earning a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament for just the second time in school history. In her final season, Saginaw Valley State collected a 20-7 record and was ranked as high as 15th in the nation.
The Traverse City, Mich., native has 15 years of collegiate coaching experience, all in the state of Michigan. A four-year starter and three-year captain at Central Michigan, Merchant began her coaching career at Oakland University, serving as the top assistant coach for three seasons.
Merchant inherits a program that has reached five straight NCAA Tournaments, including a run to the National Championship game in 2005. Nine players return from last season's team that finished third in the Big Ten and posted 20 wins or more for the fourth straight season with a 24-9 record.
Here's a closer look at Merchant's career:
Although Merchant only coached four games in the 2006-07 season, she passed two milestones: she picked up her 200th career win with a victory over Morehead State in the second game of the season Nov. 18, and became the winningest coach in Eastern Michigan history with a win over Detroit Dec. 6.
In 2005-06, Merchant guided the Eagles to a 22-8 overall record and a 15-1 record in the Mid-American Conference en route to the program's second MAC West Division Championship and a postseason WNIT berth. The 15 league wins were the most in program history, and it was the third consecutive time the Eagles had reached the 20-win mark. Leading the West Division wire-to-wire in the regular season, the Eagles won 18 out of their final 20 games to close the year. Individually, Ryan Coleman earned honorable mention All-America honors for the second straight season and closed out her career as the second all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,793 points. Coleman, a top-30 guard nationally out of high school, is one of two players in MAC history to record 1,500 points, 600 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 steals.
EMU recorded the program's first back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2003-04 and 2004-05. The 2004-05 season saw the Eagles win a school-record 23 games while earning the school's first-ever bid to the WNIT. Eastern Michigan, which received votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll for the first time in school history, topped the league in nine statistical categories and finished ninth in the nation in rebounding margin. Three players earned All-MAC honors, including Ryan Coleman, who became the second Eagle in program history to earn honorable mention All-America accolades. Along with her coaching duties, Merchant assumed the interim role of Assistant Athletics Director/Senior Women's Administrator in April 2005 through June 2006.
After building a program for five years, Merchant's hard work paid off in 2003-04, as the nation's 14th-youngest team captured the program's first-ever conference title as well as an NCAA Tournament berth. A preseason seventh overall pick, the Eagles posted a then-school record 22 overall wins and 12 conference victories. EMU garnered national attention in the NCAA Tournament as it almost pulled off an upset against third-seeded Boston College in the first round, falling just short on a last-second shot, 58-56. Merchant became the first female coach at EMU to win a MAC title and was selected as the BCAM (Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan) Coach of the Year.
In 2002-03, the Eagles turned in another strong showing in MAC play with a young team, finishing the year with a 9-7 mark, the second most victories within the conference.
EMU set then-school records for single-season wins (18) and single-season conference wins (10) in 2001-02.
In her first three years at the helm of the Eagle program, Merchant led the team to three consecutive overall winning and .500-or-better conference seasons for the first time in school history. Her 14-13 record in her first season was the first winning record for the program since the 1985-86 season and marked just the second time in eight years EMU qualified for the MAC Tournament.
In 2000-01, her team was ranked 12th academically in the nation by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association with a 3.28 GPA.
Merchant had the ability to recruit top-notch student-athletes in her tenure at Eastern Michigan. Her first recruiting class in 1999 featured five all-state players who were all ranked among the state's top 25 players, according to the Detroit Free Press. She followed it up in 2000-01, signing Ryan Coleman, one of the top 30 guards in the country.
After getting the talent to Eastern Michigan, Merchant also developed it. EMU players received postseason MAC honors over 20 times during her nine seasons in Ypsilanti, including the only two All-Americans in program history (Stephanie Smiley, Ryan Coleman).
Merchant's first head coaching position was at Saginaw Valley State, where she started in 1995. She inherited a losing team, but quickly built the Cardinals into a winner, recording a three-year mark of 54-29, including a 15-11 record her first season. Her second year, the team improved to 19-11 and earned a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament for just the second time in school history. The 1997-98 team followed with a 20-7 record and was ranked as high as 15th in the nation in the NCAA Division II rankings. The squad was also ranked in the top 25 academically by the WBCA in Division II.
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, 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., she earned honorable mention All-America honors by USA Today and was a two-time Class A all-state selection at Traverse City High School. She was also an all-state volleyball player.
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 infant son Tyler Rakan.
COACHING RECORD: 201-120 (.626) in 12 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).
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: Coach - 1997 NCAA Division II Tournament, 2004 NCAA Tournament, 2005 WNIT, 2006 WNIT.
MERCHANT'S YEAR-BY-YEAR HEAD COACHING RECORD
|Year||School||Overall Record||Conference Record (Finish)||Postseason|
|1995-96||Saginaw Valley State||15-11||9-9 (T-7th, GLIAC)||-|
|1996-97||Saginaw Valley State||19-11||10-8 (3rd, GLIAC North)||NCAA Div. II Tournament|
|1997-98||Saginaw Valley State||20-7||12-6 (T-3rd, GLIAC North)||-|
|1998-99||Eastern Michigan||14-13||8-8 (3rd, MAC West)||-|
|1999-00||Eastern Michigan||16-14||8-8 (T-3rd, MAC West)||-|
|2000-01||Eastern Michigan||16-12||9-7 (4th, MAC West)||-|
|2001-02||Eastern Michigan||18-11||10-6 (T-4th, MAC West)||-|
|2002-03||Eastern Michigan||13-16||9-7 (4th, MAC West)||-|
|2003-04||Eastern Michigan||22-8||12-4 (1st, MAC West)||NCAA Tournament|
|2004-05||Eastern Michigan||23-8||11-5 (2nd, MAC West)||WNIT|
|2005-06||Eastern Michigan||22-8||15-1 (1st, MAC West)||WNIT|
|2006-07||Eastern Michigan *||3-1||-||-|
|Totals||12 years||201-120 (.626)||113-69 (.621)||4 appearances|