Salisbury hires alumnus as men's basketball coach

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The Salisbury athletics department is proud to announce the return of one of its own. On Tuesday, athletic director Michael Vienna announced the hiring of alumnus Josh Merkel as the new men's basketball head coach.

He replaces Steve Holmes, who was not brought back after compiling a 116-170 record in 11 seasons.

Merkel, who graduated in 2001 with a degree in business administration, suited up for four years for the Sea Gulls (from 1997 until 2001), playing in 98 games while averaging 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. During his senior year, as team captain, Merkel started in 24 games, playing 33.5 minutes and scoring 13.6 points. With Merkel on the team, the Sea Gulls posted a 55-47 record.

 "I am extremely excited and eager to return to Salisbury University as head basketball coach," Merkel said. "I am humbled and grateful for the belief placed in me by Dr. Vienna and the hiring committee. The opportunity to lead a championship-caliber basketball program at Salisbury is what I consider to be the opportunity of a lifetime."

Merkel spent the 2010-11 season as an assistant coach at Randolph-Macon, where he helped lead the team to a 25-5 overall record, including the 2011 Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament championship and a share of the regular-season title. Randolph-Macon also advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament this season.

Prior to his stint with the Yellow Jackets, Merkel spent five seasons on the bench as an assistant at Division I Eastern Kentucky. During Merkel's final four years with the Colonels, the program put up its most wins in a four-season stretch (73) and made an NCAA tournament appearance after winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament in 2007, taking on North Carolina.

Merkel also spent a season as a graduate assistant coach at West Virginia, making a trip to the Elite 8 as the Mountaineers climbed as high as No. 12 in the national rankings.