The note, along with the net from the 2015 ODAC title game was left by none other than former head coach Nathan Davis.
Coach Davis resigned from the helm of the R-MC basketball program on April 19th to accept the head coaching job at Bucknell, where he was an assistant at from 2003-2008. He has led the Yellow Jackets to its most successful six year stretch in school history, including a Final Four appearance and a 70-11 record at home. Leaving behind a legacy, the spotlight is now turning to Josh Merkel. Barely moved into his office, Coach Markel opened up about his thoughts on the present, past and future.
Merkel is one of the bright young minds of the sport, and it is not going unnoticed.
He was an assistant under Davis in 2010-2011, only to return to lead his alma mater, Salisbury, the following season. After a decade of mediocrity, Merkel took the program in a completely different direction. In his second season, he led the Sea Gulls to a 19-8 record with big wins over programs
such as Virginia Wesleyan College. In his fourth and final season, he led Salisbury to its fifth best record in program history at 21-8 and their first championship in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) since 1997. They even advanced into the second round of the NCAA DIII tournament.
“It was special,” Coach Merkel said, “it was great to have that group of guys cut down the nets and for the fans to rush the court, it will always be a special memory for me”.
When asked how he turned around a program that was a consistent .500 or below team, Merkel said “We lifted the expectations. For workouts, practices, behavior, we lifted their expectations in everything.” He continued, saying he was very specific on who he brought in, made sure that they were there for the team and that they were going to do it the Salisbury way. Merkel was also a part in recruiting 7 of the 8 seniors that the Randolph-Macon team will be graduating in the spring.
With that in mind, everyone that was here during Merkel’s stint with the Yellow Jackets in 2010-2011 will be gone next season. When asked about having a core group of guys to help him transition into his new job, Merkel didn’t believe in that.
“We will be relying on everyone, not just one or a few individuals to lead this team. Everyone will be pulling on everyone. We want to be a team of one heartbeat, not one leader.”
The team will really need to buy into that motto in this upcoming season. With only one rising senior on the roster, guard Lamont Moore, the team will look to rely on the leadership of many of the younger returners such as Boris Ngundji, Mike Silverthorn, and Rip Engel. Jamie Wilson will also be returning after sitting out the 2014-2015 season with an ACL injury.
There is no question that the talent on the roster is there, and Coach Merkel is well aware of it. When asked about his expectations for his first season, Merkel said he is more focused on the day to day of the season rather than looking at it as a whole.
“My expectation is for the guys to compete. Not only with each other, but with yesterday’s version of themselves.”
After his press conference, the campus is excited for basketball season to roll around again, and Merkel is ready.
“It took a great institution and an excellent program to get me to leave [Salisbury]. I left [West Virginia] to come here in 2010 because of how people talked about the family attitude and the loyalty people show to this school.”
Although his office may not show it, Coach Merkel is ready and eager to lead Randolph-Macon into the 2015-2016 season, and I think everyone can join me in saying –
Good Luck, Coach Merkel and go Jackets!
-Blake Saathlff ’17, Staff Writer