Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Suzy Merchant leaves a lasting legacy at MSU

March 14, 2023
From left to right, sophomore guard Branndais Agee, junior forward Aerial Powers, head coach Suzy Merchant and senior center Jasmine Hines celebrate their teams victory after the game against Ohio State on Feb. 27, 2016 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes, 107-105 in triple overtime.
From left to right, sophomore guard Branndais Agee, junior forward Aerial Powers, head coach Suzy Merchant and senior center Jasmine Hines celebrate their teams victory after the game against Ohio State on Feb. 27, 2016 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes, 107-105 in triple overtime. —
Photo by Sundeep Dhanjal | and Sundeep Dhanjal The State News

After 16 seasons and a lasting legacy at Michigan State, head women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant announced that she will be stepping down effective immediately due to health reasons. The decision was a mutual one with athletic director Alan Haller.

"It is with a heavy heart that I announce I am stepping down from Michigan State University due to health reasons,” Merchant said in a statement. “After much consideration and consultation with my healthcare providers, I have come to the difficult decision that it is in my best interest. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the entire Michigan State community, including the administration, faculty, and staff.”

The Michigan native was hired as head coach on April 30, 2007 after nine years at Eastern Michigan, where she became to winningest head coach in program history.

During her time at MSU, Merchant held an 327-186 all-time record, went to 10 NCAA tournaments and brought home two Big Ten titles for the green and white. Merchant became the fastest MSU coach to hit 100 wins and is the second-winningest head coach for the Spartan women — just 49 wins shy of the 376 from MSU Hall of Famer Karen Langeland.

Women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant poses for a portrait during Women's Basketball Media Day on Oct. 28, 2015 at Breslin Center.

Women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant poses for a portrait during Women's Basketball Media Day on Oct. 28, 2015 at Breslin Center.

In sixteen seasons, 52 of Merchant’s players have received Big Ten recognition and three went on to be drafted in the first round in the WNBA draft — Aerial Powers (2016), Tori Jankoska (2017) and Nia Clouden (2022).

Perhaps the greatest impact she will leave will be the one she has left on her players. This season, and in years past, Merchant’s players have spoken of the relationships she builds with her teams on and off the court.

“She's really put the work in,” Nia Clouden said after Merchant’s 300th win last season. “Most importantly I think she builds relationships with her players that she brings in to the point where they wanna see her succeed and they do whatever they can to get the win.”

During her tenure, Merchant consistently showed her dedication to not only shaping basketball players, but also young women.

Seven years ago, Suzy Merchant founded the empowHER leadership retreat to positively impact young girls and give them skills to take on personal and professional challenges in life.

The non-profit was created to honor the life of April Bocian — a young girl Merchant was interested in recruiting who sadly took her own life. In the past, Merchant and the board have said that the goal is to hopefully save the life of at least one girl.

In Merchant’s statement about stepping down, she expressed what her ability to impact her players and young women means to her.

“I have had the privilege of coaching some of the most talented and dedicated young women in the country,” Merchant said in the statement. “The opportunity to mentor, lead and empower young women has been the honor of a lifetime.”

Michigan State athletics announced that they will be conducting a nation-wide search to find a fit replacement for Suzy Merchant. In the meantime, associate head coach Dean Lockwood will continue acting as interim head coach.

Merchant finished her statement with one final sentiment to the fans: “It has been an incredible journey…Thank you, Spartan Nation.”

WomensBBallSeniors_022722_SJK_23.jpeg

Graduate student forward Alisia Smith (4) stands with head women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant as the two recount her college career. The Spartans held a ceremony honoring the four graduating seniors of the women's basketball team at the Breslin Center on Feb. 27, 2022.

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