Marquette Wire

Women’s assistant coach Merritt lives life of basketball

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Scott Merritt (center) stands with the rest of women's basketball's coaching staff.

Scott Merritt (center) stands with the rest of women's basketball's coaching staff.

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

Scott Merritt (center) stands with the rest of women's basketball's coaching staff.

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Scott Merritt is a basketball junkie.

His entire life is seemingly tied to the sport, and no matter what is thrown at him, it is impossible for Merritt to get away from the game he loves.

Sitting behind his desk in the Al McGuire Center, his office appears to fit him nicely. However, his 6-foot-10 frame fills the space, making it seem like the room is shrinking. Merritt, now a women’s basketball assistant coach, was destined to find a career in the sport.

“I think it was kind of just a natural thing, ’cause my father played, my grandmother played, so I gravitated towards (basketball) pretty early on in life,” Merritt said.

Merritt was a crucial part of the Golden Eagles’ 2003 Final Four team. He finished his career 14th on Marquette’s all-time rebounding list, and 37th in scoring.

When his college career came to an end, Merritt aspired to play in the NBA. After several failed attempts at trying to secure a guaranteed NBA contract, he decided to embark overseas.

The task was daunting. Merritt was going to leave his family, friends and the familiarity of the United States just to play basketball, but thanks to his college coach Tom Crean, Merritt felt prepared.

“I’m not scared of anything in life,” Merritt said. “I know I can get through it because of the way (Crean) pushed us.”

He would need that attitude as he started his foreign adventure in Ukraine.

“(In Ukraine), the owners of the team weren’t exactly upstanding citizens,” Merritt said. “Let’s just say there was some mafia-type dealings going on. It ended up being a crazy situation, but we had a talented team. The management was so insane that we basically all jumped ship.”

He would make a stop in Cyprus, before once again calling on Crean’s lessons as he was pinned up in a hotel for a week in Turkey waiting for his paycheck.

“We won the championship … they should be happy, and they still put me through the ringer on the way out, and that is just part of the life over there,” Merritt said.

“This was also a time when he was starting to develop a family, so you got to keep pushing … I think he and people around him thought he really had a shot,” Terry Sanders, roommate and teammate to Merritt at Marquette, said. “When you are that close to achieving your dream, you aren’t going to give up on it.”

Finally, Merritt found comfort in Japan, where his teams were run by professionals and his paychecks were on time. After three years there, Merritt headed for South Korea. He had planned to play until he was 35, but life was coming at him fast. He had two young kids, only a two-bedroom apartment and his wife wanted to go back to work.

Merritt hung up his shoes and headed back state-side where he began coaching high school basketball. But, knowing there were bills to pay and mouths to feed, he started getting licensed to work in finance for his father-in-law. Meanwhile, Carolyn Kieger was named the head coach of Marquette’s women’s team.

“When I got the job, he kind of marched into my office and wanted to know my path and how I got there,” Kieger said. “I thought he just wanted some help getting in the game, but he was like, ‘No, I want to coach at a high level.’ I thought he meant the men’s side, but he was like, ‘No, I would do anything.’ I was like, ‘Okay,’ and didn’t think anything of it. A couple of weeks go by, and he keeps coming into my office. … I started thinking there isn’t another person that I am going to interview that has more pride in Marquette.”

Kieger hired Merritt as her assistant coach.

“Did I ever see myself coaching women’s basketball? Not really, to be honest, but I enjoy it. I really enjoy it,” Merritt said.

In three years, Merritt has taken great strides as a coach, becoming a trusted voice on the sidelines and a successful recruiter for Kieger.

“I do want to be a head coach,” Merritt said. “How far down the road I’m not sure yet … Basketball will be involved in whatever I do for the remainder of my life as long as I have a say so in it.”

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