Steve Merfeld admits to a pang or two of apprehension when Creighton coach Greg McDermott approached him about a month ago with a job proposal.
With Creighton moving to the new Big East next season, McDermott was looking to possibly add an assistant with eastern recruiting ties. At the same time, he didn’t want to lose any of his current assistants — Merfeld, Steve Lutz and Darian DeVries.
McDermott asked Merfeld if he would consider a position that would expand his overall duties in the program but would cost him on-court coaching and off-campus recruiting responsibilities.
“Initially, there was a great deal of concern, anxiety and uncertainty which obviously is brought forth with change,” Merfeld said. “As time has evolved, I have mentally become more comfortable with this new and expanded role.”
That role is as the program’s director of player development. His acceptance of that position allowed McDermott to hire Patrick Sellers, who recruited some of the players who contributed to Connecticut’s 2011 national championship.
Sellers spent the past two seasons at Hofstra and began work at Creighton on Thursday.
As excited as he is to add Sellers to his staff, McDermott is equally thrilled that Merfeld is taking on his new responsibilities. McDermott said he considers Merfeld his “right-hand man,” and that Merfeld will play an expanded role in helping shape the direction of the program.
“We have great challenges as we move forward into the Big East,” Merfeld said. “The opportunity to assist and be involved in the day-to-day operation and decision-making process is extremely appealing to me.”
McDermott hired Merfeld shortly after taking the Creighton position in the spring of 2010. Merfeld’s 27 years of Division I coaching experience includes 10 seasons as a head coach — five at Hampton, where he twice got the school to the NCAA tournament and engineered one of the biggest upsets in tournament history in a win against second-seeded Iowa State, and five at Evansville.
McDermott said Merfeld is the perfect fit for the position.
“For us, it will be like having two head coaches on staff,” McDermott said. “He’ll be involved with every decision that’s made in the program, and we’ll use his experience to help put together a plan for players to develop from a fundamental, social and academic standpoint.
“This was necessary for our program to move forward in the Big East.”
Of course, one of the drawbacks is having to give up on-court coaching duties, but Merfeld thinks he can continue to impact the players in his new position.
“In the athletic field, we are all in the role of developing our future leaders,” he said. “That responsibility will not change. My role and coaching responsibility will be shifted to include a program-wide focus.
“I will still go to work every morning with the intent of developing these young men and making Creighton basketball the best that it can be.”
The latter provides Merfeld with plenty of drive.
“These years at Creighton have been the best three years of my coaching career,” he said. “Being a part of 57 wins the past two years, winning back-to-back tournament championships and participating and winning in the NCAA tournament two straight years is like a dream come true.
“I am excited about the future of Creighton basketball. I certainly will always have what is in the best interest of the program as the driving force behind every professional decision that I make.”
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