Monday, January 25, 2021

Suzy Merchant reflects on hard year

April 21, 2015

After playing at Central Michigan University, Merchant went on to be an assistant coach for Oakland University. It was a couple more stops, including a long tenure at Eastern Michigan University, before Merchant finally landed in East Lansing. She has coached the Spartans’ women’s basketball team since 2007.

Since taking over as head coach at MSU, Merchant led women’s basketball to its first ever Big Ten Title in history. Additionally, Merchant quickly became the fastest Spartan coach to reach 100 career wins.

This past season, however, ended with MSU failing to make the NCAA tournament, and losing in the Big Ten tournament to Maryland — a Final Four team. The season was anything but predictable, with injuries constantly altering lineups and player availability.

Despite this, Merchant looked at the season as “unique,” and was pleased with the results and is optimistic for the future.

“I think we were an extremely dangerous team, and we were a team that really fought and competed hard,” Merchant said. “I think that’ll transition extremely well next year.”

The team battled injuries to several players and even lost freshman guard Jasmine Lumpkin for personal reasons.

“I look at it as the glass half full because it gave opportunities to other kids that might not have gotten it, and they really developed and played well for us,” she said.

Being optimistic was certainly necessary with the season going the way it did. Mental toughness and perseverance was essential, and Merchant tried to make sure the players understood this.

Merchant said she values having a connection with players, as it naturally allows for better performance.

On any sports team, communication is key, and MSU basketball is no different.

Communication within the team is great she said, but Merchant said she especially values the communication at MSU between different sports coaches.

“You can pick up the phone and call anybody. I don’t think there’s anybody in the country that can stack up to MSU in terms of how we support each other,” Merchant said.

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With MSU being the home to several successful sporting programs, the resources are certainly there. Merchant speaks with men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo everyday and considers him a tremendous resource.

With all the success she has had Merchant said one of the proudest moments of her career took place in the summer of 2009. Merchant was an assistant for Team USA in the Women’s World University Games in Serbia, and earned a gold medal for the team’s performance.

“To stand up on a podium and get a gold metal with USA on your chest is something you can’t really describe to people,” she said. “You can’t help but get chills.”

Looking forward, Merchant has one goal, to win a National Championship for MSU. The goal is the same every year, and despite falling short this season, Merchant said she is optimistic and excited for the upcoming season.

“We played two of the teams in the Final Four and we lost by 6 and 7 to them. We’re not that far,” she said.

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