ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) - Former Randolph-Macon assistant and Salisbury head coach Josh Merkel has returned to Ashland to lead the Yellow Jackets' men's basketball program.
"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be the next head coach at Randolph-Macon College," Merkel said. "I am humbled and grateful by the faith and confidence that Athletics Director Jeff Burns, President Robert Lindgren and Provost William Franz have placed in me. The opportunity to return and build on the great tradition of coaches such as Paul Webb, Hal Nunnally, Mike Rhoades and Nathan Davis is something we will pursue with enthusiasm every day. We understand the expectations and the standard of excellence that have been established. We realize we are being given a gift and it is our responsibility to continue to grow that gift."
Merkel was an assistant at R-MC during the 2010-11 season under former head coach Nathan Davis. The Yellow Jackets posted a 25-5 record, captured a share of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference regular-season title with a 13-3 mark and won the ODAC Tournament crown. R-MC reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Merkel also helped recruit this past season's senior class of Marcus Badger, Hunter Fromang, Chris Hamilton, Akeem Holmes, Evan Jackson, Connor Sullivan and Trent Walker.
"Josh Merkel is a great recruiter, has an excellent basketball mind, and relates well to his players," said Davis, the head coach at Bucknell University. "He was as good an assistant coach as I have ever been around. He showed what he is capable of as a head coach during his time at Salisbury. I am confident that he will take the Randolph-Macon Basketball program to heights it has yet to achieve."
Merkel is just the fifth head coach for the R-MC Basketball program since 1956, joining Davis (2009-15), Rhoades (1999-2009), Nunnally (1975-99) and Webb (1956-75). Each of the past four head coaches was a former Yellow Jacket assistant coach.
"The history of coaching talent associated with the Randolph-Macon College basketball family is unmatched at the college level," said R-MC Director of Athletics Jeff Burns. "Josh embodies the high character, first-class nature of our program and is well-suited to carry on that tradition."
For the past four seasons, Merkel served as head coach at his alma mater. The Sea Gulls were 66-41 (.617) over the past four years and 37-25 (.597) in Capital Athletic Conference contests.
This past season, Merkel led Salisbury to a 21-8 record and a 14-4 CAC mark. It was the fifth-best record in the 86 years of the program and the first 20-win season since 1996-97. Salisbury set a school record with 14 CAC victories and Merkel was named CAC Coach of the Year. The second-seeded Sea Gulls defeated No. 6 Mary Washington 59-52 in the CAC semifinals and edged No. 4 Christopher Newport 58-57 to win the CAC Championship, the first title since 1997 and second in program history. Salisbury defeated Eastern Connecticut St. 66-54 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to host Trinity in the second round.
"R-MC hit a home run hiring Josh Merkel," said Rhoades, the head coach at Rice University. "He is a first-class person and coach with a great work ethic. Coach Merkel is all about the players. His players will play hard for him and follow his lead. Josh knows R-MC Basketball and its storied success and tradition. I am excited to follow and support Josh and his teams."
Merkel graduated from Salisbury in 2001. He was a four-year letter winner in men's basketball and averaged 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 98 games. Merkel was a captain during his senior season and averaged 13.6 points and 33.5 minutes in 24 contests.
During the 2004-05 season, Merkel was a graduate assistant coach at West Virginia under head coach John Beilein. Merkel helped the Mountaineers reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament and earn a ranking as high as No. 12 in the national polls.
Merkel was an assistant coach for five seasons at Eastern Kentucky with head coach Jeff Neubauer. From 2006-10, the Colonels registered 73 victories, the highest four-season total in program history. EKU won the Ohio Valley Conference championship in 2007 and faced North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.
While at Salisbury, Merkel earned a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in finance in 2001. He graduated cum laude. Merkel received an M.A. in Physical Education from Eastern Kentucky in 2007, graduating with High Distinction.