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 will be formally introduced at a 3 p.m. press conference Monday 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.
"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.