Michigan State women’s hoops coach Suzy Merchant steps down Damon Stoudamire hired as Georgia Tech’s head coach South Carolina women cap wire-to-wire No. 1 run in AP Top 25 Alabama, Houston top final AP Top 25 ahead of March Madness Ole Miss hires former Texas coach Chris Beard Kansas coach Bill Self out of hospital after heart procedure
EAST LANSING, Michigan. Susie Merchant stepped down as coach of the Michigan State women’s basketball team due to health issues.
“After much deliberation and consultation with my healthcare providers, I have come to the difficult decision that this is in my best interest,” Merchant said in a statement released by the school on Monday.
Merchant, 53, hasn’t coached the Spartans since she was involved in a one-car crash in late January following a medical incident. Six seasons ago, she passed out and fell on the court during a game, and doctors later discovered she had a heart defect.
Deputy head coach Dean Lockwood, who replaced Merchant this season, will serve as the team’s interim coach while the school looks for a new leader for the program.
Merchant had a five-year, renewable contract with a base salary of $700,000.
The 2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year won two Big Ten titles, earned 10 NCAA Tournament bids, and reached the Sweet 16 in 2019. She was 327–186 in 16 seasons with the Spartans and 528–306 overall, including her records in Eastern Michigan. and Saginaw Valley State.
Merchant of Traverse City played four years as a starter and captained the Central Michigan basketball team three times.
“I would like to give special thanks to (former athletic director) Mark Hollis and (former school president) Dr. Lou Anna Simon for giving a small-town Northern Michigan kid the chance of a lifetime to fulfill my dream as a Spartan. Merchant said. “I am eternally grateful.”
ATLANTA. Georgia Tech moved quickly to appoint a new leader at the head of its men’s basketball program, hiring longtime NBA guard Damon Stoudamire as the new Yellow Vests coach.
Staudameer, 49, moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference School from the Boston Celtics, where he has been an assistant coach since 2021. The Celtics were in Atlanta last weekend to play the Hawks.
Stoudamire’s only previous coaching experience was at the Pacific, where he compiled a 71-77 record over five seasons. He was the 2020 West Coast Conference Coach of the Year.
It didn’t take long for Georgia Institute of Technology to replace Josh Pastner, who was fired on Friday after the Yellow Vests ended the season 15-18 with a second-round loss to Pittsburgh in the ACC tournament.
Now Stoudamire is leading a program that has only competed in the NCAA Tournament once in the past 13 years.
“Coach Staudamire’s success and credibility as a player and coach at both the student and professional levels makes him an excellent candidate to lead our program,” said Athletic Director Jay Butt. “He will be an outstanding mentor on and off the court and will bring talented student-athletes to the Flats.”
Staudamire was Arizona’s college star, helping lead the Wildcats to the 1994 Final Four. He was selected seventh overall in the 1995 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors and received the Rookie of the Year award.
He averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game over a 13-year pro career, including with the Portland Trail Blazers (1998–05), Memphis Grizzlies (2005–08), and the Suns. Antonio Spurs” (2008).
Staudamir said he was “very honored” to get a job with the Yellow Vests, who won the ACC title two years ago but have largely not played a role on the national scene for more than a decade.
This is a far cry from the massive program that Bobby Cremins built in the 1980s and 90s with stars like Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, John Sully, Stephon Marbury and Dennis Scott.
The Yellow Vests reached the Final Four for the first time in 1990, and in 2004 went all the way to a national championship game under Cremins’ successor Paul Hewitt.
“It is an incredible honor to lead such a tradition-rich program,” Staudamir said. “I’m very excited to get to work with the goal of having our team consistently compete at the championship level that we all know we can and should compete in.”
The Yellow Jackets have managed only two winning seasons and one NCAA Tournament victory in Hewitt’s last six seasons. After being fired in 2011, Brian Gregory failed to get into the NCAA during a nearly imperceptible five years in office, which led to his firing.
Pastner left Memphis to lead the Yellow Vests in 2016, earning a reputation as a top-notch recruiter. But Georgia Tech was barely noticed by the country’s five-star prospects, and the lack of talent showed up in the track record.
Other than an amazing ACC Tournament title aspiration and a one-off NCAA appearance in 2021, Pastner’s program has shown no signs of progress over his seven-year tenure.
The Yellow Vests fell to 12-20 last season, finishing second to last in the ACC at 5-15. They started this season 1-12 in conference play, on a nine-game losing streak before a late streak left them 6-14 in 13th place.
Pastner finished with a 109–114 record at Georgia Tech, including a 53–78 mark in the ACC.
Over the past six months, the Yellow Vests have fired two of their most prominent coaches, as well as a sports director. Football coach Jeff Collins and AD Todd Stansbury were sacked after a poor start last season.
Butt replaced Stansbury and led the search, which left interim coach Brent Key as Collins’ permanent successor and Stoudamire was hired.
Collins was due to buy out more than $11 million, while Pastner would receive about $2.5 million over the last three years of his contract, putting additional strain on the sports department, which has been struggling financially in recent years.
But Georgia Tech president Angel Cabrera expressed hope that Staudamir could make a difference on the court.
“His impressive track record as a college and NBA coach, as well as his own experience as a student athlete and professional player, will be invaluable assets to the institute’s men’s basketball program and our student athletes,” Cabrera said.
Interestingly, Stoudamire was an assistant at Memphis from 2009 to 2011 after Pastner became John Calipari’s head coach, and returned to the Tigers for Pastner’s final season at school in 2015-16.
Staudamir was also an NBA assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies and spent two years at his alma mater.
In his only head coaching position, he led the Pacific in 2016 when the program began with an 8-20 campaign. His best season was a 23–10 record in 2019–20 when the Tigers won a school-record 11 WCC games and he was named Conference Coach of the Year.
But he ended up with a losing record overall and never led the Tigers to a postseason spot.
Now Staudamir will get a chance to improve his resume in the ACC.
On Monday, South Carolina joined the exclusive group, finishing first in recent years on the Associated Press’s Top 25 Women in Basketball.
The defending National Champion Gamecocks (32-0) became the third school to be the top team in the poll all season in a row, tied with UConn and Louisiana Tech.
The Gamecocks, who rank first in the NCAA tournament overall, lead the poll for 38 consecutive weeks, the second-longest behind UConn’s record-breaking 51-week streak (2008-10). The Gamecocks, led by Alia Boston, were once again unanimously selected by a media group of 28.
“We have the best player in college basketball who can put our program at number one for several consecutive seasons,” said South Carolina coach Don Staley.
Indiana traded places with Iowa in the final poll, returning to second after finishing first in the NCAA Tournament. Virginia Tech and Stanford, the other two top seeds, came in fourth and fifth on the final top 25 list.
The University of California, which won last week’s Big East Tournament, switched places with Maryland to follow the Cardinal. For the first time since 2006, the Huskies did not finish the season in the top five in the poll. Every year since 1994 they have been ranked in the top 10 in the final poll.
Utah, LSU and Villanova round out the top 10 teams.
Louisiana Tech was ranked number one for 36 weeks from 1980 to 1982, and the University of Connecticut was ranked number one from 2008 to 2010. Huskies went from one wire to another five more times. Texas (1985-86), Tennessee (1997-98) and Baylor (2011-12) are the only other teams to have one full season in the top spot.
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Iowa State made it through the Big 12 tournament, winning three games in three days and re-entering the poll at number 17.
“These are the moments they will remember,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly. “It’s not just a win. They will remember what that environment was like all their lives. We beat a great team and it was a great three days for us.”
Middle Tennessee dropped out of the rankings.
The Pac-12 finished the season with six teams in the top 25, more than in any conference. The Big Ten was next with five, while the ACC had four. The Big 12 and the SEC had three each, and the Big East had two each. Mountain West and West Coast Conference each had one.
The No. 1 overall seed for March Madness is also No. 1 in the final AP Top 25 rankings.
Alabama, fresh off the SEC Tournament title and regular season crown, moved up to first place on Monday, earning 48 of 61 first-place votes, beating Houston, who lost in the American Athletic Conference Finals without star quarterback Marcus Sasser. Alabama also spent a week at number one last month.
“We’ve set goals for the summer: regular season, tournament (leagues), obviously the national championship,” Crimson Tide guard Javon Quinerley said. “I’ll make sure our guys are ready to play no matter who we face.”
It will be Texas A&M-Corpus Christi or Southeast Missouri State in the Top Four game on Tuesday night. The winner will play Crimson Tide on…