After 16 years in command of Michigan State women’s basketball, head coach Suzy Merchant announced Monday she would be stepping down from her role as head coach effective immediately.
The news of Merchant’s resignation has swept across MSU’s campus, leaving students and basketball fans feeling equally shocked, melancholy and hopeful.
A Jan. 28 car accident by way of an undisclosed medical incident kept Merchant away from the team for the remainder of the season. In her time at MSU, Merchant led the Spartans to two Big Ten titles and 10 NCAA tournament appearances with an outstanding record of 327-186.
“It was definitely a surprise,” kinesiology junior Ali David said. “I knew that she was in a car accident of some sort, but I didn’t expect it coming ... But well wishes to her and whatever she’s dealing with.”
Likewise, broadcast journalism freshman Jada Mohon was stunned to hear of Merchant’s resignation.
“I was surprised because she’s been coaching for a long time,” Mohon said. “She’s definitely an iconic woman in our community.”
Elementary education senior Troy Herd and public relations junior Jasmine Dortch were also taken aback by the news; both had high praise for Merchant.
“It was definitely some news to me because I thought she had a little bit more in her. But, for her time here, she did a really good job,” Herd said. “She was an amazing coach.”
“I was surprised because I didn’t think she would (resign) anytime soon,” Dortch said. “She seemed like a really good coach. I know a lot of people liked her.”
Seeing Merchant for the first time in person at Midnight Madness at MSU in 2022, anthropology freshman Eden Beckerman said she was fond of her aura.
“When it was the introductions of the girls’ and guys’ coaches, I saw her and I really liked her vibe,” Beckerman said. “It’s sad to see her go, especially because she’s a woman in a coaching position.”
Business sophomore Thomas Boyle was sorrowful of Merchant’s departure and said he’d seen Merchant around campus and how she interacted with students.
“Suzy Merchant has been here pretty long from what I’ve known and it’s pretty saddening to see," Boyle said. “She was definitely always light-hearted, very sweet to the students.”
Journalism freshman Dylan Engels, a Traverse City native along with Merchant, would always root for her to succeed and represent his hometown.
“I’ve always loved her,” Engels said. “It was sad to see her go.”
While Merchant’s resignation comes in the face of unfortunate health circumstances, Mohon identified a silver lining.
“I think it’s sad, but I don’t think it’s something that we should demean in any way because she left a good legacy on the basketball team,” Mohon said. “I think it’s good for the program because new coaches will try to follow in her footsteps.”
Similarly, Boyle said Merchant’s departure should not detract from her career accomplishments.
“You can see all the accolades out front on the south end of the Breslin Center of what she’s done, all the athletes she’s coached,” Boyle said. “It’s very awesome what she’s been able to do in her years here.”
With Merchant taking MSU women’s basketball to new heights, Engels said the loss will sting the program until her replacement is found.
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“It’s going to hurt until they find that next coach to fill her shoes,” Engels said.
Herd echoed Engels’ comment.
“I think it could be a huge loss unless someone steps up like Suzy did,” Herd said.
Michigan State Athletics will conduct a national coaching search for Merchant’s successor. Until then, the future of MSU women’s basketball remains unknown.
“(It’s) definitely a big step, but I’m sure that they’re going to do whatever they can do to fill a pretty big pair of shoes,” David said.
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