Josh Merkel

Website –

Email –

Twitter – @RMCHoops   @joshmerkel4

Josh Merkel is the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia.  He just completed his 7th season by winning the Division 3 National Championship in 2022.  Merkel was named NABC Division 3 Coach of the Year, the ODAC Coach of the Year for the 5th consecutive season and was named the recipient of the Glenn Robinson Award for the second straight year which is presented annually to the top Division III head coach.  The Yellow Jackets have an overall record of 148-38 since Merkel took over in 2015.  His career record as a Head Coach stands at 209-79.

Merkel previously served as head coach at his alma mater, Salisbury, from 2011-2015. The Sea Gulls were 66-41 over those four years. 

Merkel was an assistant coach for five seasons at D1 Eastern Kentucky, for one season at Randolph-Macon, and served as a graduate assistant coach at West Virginia under head coach John Beilein.

Josh was a four-year letter winner in men’s basketball at Salisbury where averaged 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 98 games and served as a captain during his senior season.

If you’re looking to improve your coaching please consider joining the Hoop Heads Mentorship Program.  We believe that having a mentor is the best way to maximize your potential and become a transformational coach. By matching you up with one of our experienced mentors you’ll develop a one on one relationship that will help your coaching, your team, your program, and your mindset.  The Hoop Heads Mentorship Program delivers mentoring services to basketball coaches at all levels through our team of experienced Head Coaches. Find out more at or shoot me an email directly

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram @hoopheadspod for the latest updates on episodes, guests, and events from the Hoop Heads Pod and check out the Hoop Heads Podcast Network for more great basketball content including The Green Light, Courtside Culture and our team focused NBA Podcasts:  Knuck if you Buck, The 305 Culture, & Lakers Fast Break We’re looking for more NBA podcasters interested in hosting their own show centered on a particular team. Email us if you’re interested in learning more and bringing your talent to our network.

Take some notes as you listen to this episode with Josh Merkel, Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Randolph-Macon College, 2022 Division 3 National Champions.

What We Discuss with Josh Merkel

  • The influence of his Mom who played college basketball at the University of Maryland
  • Learning the value of commitment as a high school player
  • Playing for Coach Kevin Sutton in high school
  • His decision to attend Salisbury University
  • “I want you to get that offer. If you don’t, you can change your dream. You can dream to cut down a net, win a national championship.”
  • Why D1’s won’t play top level D3’s
  • “There’s a bunch of division one guys that could not impact and help us win.”
  • “I just don’t understand why recruits & parents don’t spend more time even asking me good questions.”
  • Starting out his career as a high school coach before getting an opportunity with John Beilein at West Virginia
  • Moving on with Jeff Neubauer to Eastern Kentucky as an assistant coach
  • “Each day matters and you can’t have a bad day.”
  • “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships.”
  • “Self-awareness is a superpower.”
  • “Truth over harmony.”
  • “None of us ever got good by ourselves.”
  • Why he left D1 for D3
  • Getting the head coaching job at Salisbury, his alma mater
  • Why he eventually left Salisbury for Randolph-Macon
  • “I think the biggest thing is everybody wants to know coach hears me. Coach sees me uniquely.”
  • “Trust doesn’t happen without truth and truth doesn’t happen without trust.”
  • “Love is spelled T I M E.”
  • “Winners and learners”
  • “Criticize in private and praise in public.”
  • The leadership he got from Buzz Anthony, his point guard this year
  • Trust your training and play fearless
  • “We coached the first game of the season, whether we’re up by 30, really the same that we would have national championship game so that when you get in those moments, nothing feels different.”
  • The feeling after winning the National Championship
  • “Be at our best when our best is needed.”
  • “We know that you love us, but man, you’re hard to play for.”

Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!

Become a Patron!
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DrDish-Rec.jpg

We’re excited to partner with Dr. Dish, the world’s best shooting machine! Mention the Hoop Heads Podcast when you place your order and get $300 off a brand new state of the art Dr. Dish Shooting Machine!

Prepare like the pros with the all new FastDraw and FastScout. FastDraw has been the number one play diagramming software for coaches for years, and now with it’s integrated web platform, coaches have the ability to add video to plays and share them directly to their players Android and iPhones via their mobile app. Coaches can also create customized scouting reports,  upload and send game and practice film straight to the mobile app. Your players and staff have never been as prepared for games as they will after using FastDraw & FastScout. You’ll see quickly why FastModel Sports has the most compelling and intuitive basketball software out there! In addition to a great product, they also provide basketball coaching content and resources through their blog and playbank, which features over 8,000 free plays and drills from their online coaching community. For access to these plays and more information, visit or follow them on Twitter @FastModel. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Spacer-1.jpg

To win a championship or play in college, high basketball IQ is essential. Yet, few players develop this aspect of their game. Get the uncommon skills, habits, and mindset Jamal Murray and other pros discovered at PGC Basketball camps to take their game to the highest levels.

PGC offers 5-day, 4-night basketball camps that include meals and accommodations, and day camps from 9am-4pm. Get registered today at

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Spacer-1.jpg


If you enjoyed this episode with Josh Merkel let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:

Click here to thank Josh Merkel on Twitter!

Click here to let Mike & Jason know about your number one takeaway from this episode!

And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly NBA episodes, drop us a line at

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Spacer-1.jpg


[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight, but I am pleased to be joined by Josh Merkel, the head men’s basketball coach at Randolph-Macon College, Division 3 national champions here in the year 2022, Josh. First of all, congratulations and welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

[00:00:19] Josh Merkel: Yeah. Excited to be on and talk some hoops with you, Mike. Thanks for having me on

[00:00:23] Mike Klinzing: Probably has a good ring to put that national championship at the end of your introduction, right?

[00:00:30] Josh Merkel: Yeah. I mean yeah, we’ll take it. We’ll take it at this point. Yeah.

[00:00:34] Mike Klinzing: Understood. Let’s go back in time to when you were a kid, tell me about your first experience with the game of basketball, how you got into the game.

[00:00:41] Josh Merkel: Yeah. I love bragging about my mom and my family. So my mom played at University of Maryland. Then coached there for three years then had me then had eight more kids. So I’m the oldest of nine. And it was a huge passion for her, she was a big time athlete. She actually tried out for the Olympic team during that run.

And, she still plays in women’s leagues all the way into her mid sixties. So I would say that passion, she was my first coach. She taught me how to shoot that not as athletic, but the work ethic that she built the court for us. And I could just be seen shooting on that thing all hours of the day.

And that, that was my first experience. I grew up on a farm. So not a lot of competition, but the shooting piece maybe in the backyard that happened quite a bit.

[00:01:24] Mike Klinzing: Always basketball or were there other sports too?

[00:01:26] Josh Merkel: We were a big basketball soccer family, I believe. Seven of the nine in our family ended up playing some type of college sport, maybe six of nine.

But it was either basketball, soccer. There was some tennis in there. But yeah, those are the main two. And that was it. Yeah. Those two did a lot of.

[00:01:45] Mike Klinzing: As you got into high school, what do you remember about your experiences as a high school player, maybe a favorite memory that stands out for you?

[00:01:53] Josh Merkel: So I got lucky my high school instead of going to the local public school. I went to prospect all St. John’s prospect hall went there for four years. My JV coach, Kevin Sutton who was since going on to coach a bunch of different places, college, high, major level just a phenomenal psychology major, and a phenomenal mentor for me.

And he’s actually the reason that I’m, I still remember my ninth grade year, so. That’s who I want to be. I want to be that inspiration to other young people, other high school guys, always thought I wanted to be a high school coach. Get to work for the legendary Stu Vetter, who should be in the high school hall of fame at some point, kind of a Dean Smith disciple.

So we learned commitment 11 months a year program. You might get that month of August off, but we lifted, we did the pre-season post-season it was really a five to six day a week thing, study halls, then practice getting home late. So I’m like, I got extremely lucky that you know, we were seventh in the country, my, my junior year and second in the country of my senior year to be exposed.

So that level of commitment is really what built my foundation coach.

[00:02:56] Mike Klinzing: Sutton’s tremendous. He’s been on with us and got connected to him through Alan Stein. And he was just a tremendous, tremendous interview. Great guy. You could just tell the passion that he has for the game of basketball. So I’m sure being exposed to him at a young age meant that you don’t get many better role models in that for sure.

[00:03:13] Josh Merkel: Well, I got to tell you and I got em young part of his career, but every lunch period it was, you hear the bell ring. I hurry up, I’ve run downstairs locker room change, get a 30 minute or so workout with him. He’s rebound and shoot, and put me through all these drills of these tests and out trash cans everywhere.

And then it was a race maybe four minutes before the bell rings, go back down, no shower, throw my clothes back on. I’m eating my sandwich before I get to the next class. And that was really a four year deal where I made he had me brainwashed that, that we had to do this thing. Every lunchtime to get better.

[00:03:48] Mike Klinzing: That was a little different. At that time, there wasn’t as much of that training. Like we see today with kids who a lot of us were more on our own and, and working out. And you had that opportunity to work with him that it’s sort of unusual for the time when you were growing up.

[00:04:03] Josh Merkel: Yes. I mean, and that’s why I said I was so blessed and fortunate, but yeah, there was definitely none of the, like the individual training and it was open to anybody that wanted to make.

And we had a lot of guys in there, but I would say probably no one had, maybe I was one of the few I needed to be in there. You know, it’s a talented guys that I was around and I’ve been an underdog ever since then. And I still need to be working on my craft if I want to be as good as some of these other guys.

[00:04:29] Mike Klinzing: When did college basketball get on your radar in terms of being a player, what was your recruitment like?

[00:04:35] Josh Merkel: Like, like every shoe. I mean, it was probably on my radar before I was ever ready. Being at that high level of a program and eight division one guys on that team alone, you feel like you, you got coaches in the gym all the time.

So my recruitment was division three, mostly a little bit of division two recruitment. And I ended up where I was supposed to be I was a two guard, six foot one. I didn’t have the one, the point guard didn’t have the speed could shoot it. Play hall learn how to compete and learn, learn just a love for the game.

So ended up going to Salisbury university in Maryland which really costs was a big factor. They had just gone to the elite eight the year before that was another factor. And you know, one of the wind came from that high level winning program. So I ended up playing for Ward Lambert there for my first three years.

And then Steve Holmes, my last year.

[00:05:23] Mike Klinzing: What was the adjustment like for you going from your high school situation to the college situation, both in terms of say things that your players deal with today, right. Academically, socially basketball wise. What do you remember about that transition?

[00:05:36] Josh Merkel: Yeah, I remember I remember this Mike that you’re almost made to feel like a failure when you don’t get a scholarship.

I will say that like, even then that was 20 years ago, 1997 when I graduated. So I, I felt that I felt like, all right, well I had a chip on my shoulder and I wanted to prove that that I could really play. So I was probably a little more serious and intentional you know, even then, I mean, obviously I’m a coach now, but I was maybe a little more.

Basketball focused than some of my teammates, which we had a little bit more committed group overall had some, but not all. And I remember that transition being soft, going from the structure and discipline that I had come from. So in division three where you can’t work as, as well or you just can’t work with your coaches on the off season.

We did have a strict conditioning program on the track. Coach Lambert was like a Loyola Marymount guy and kind of studied under those guys. So we were always top 10 in scoring in the country. And, and really you had to get through a pretty big rigorous track workout in the preseason, which really weeded a bunch of guys out.

[00:06:38] Mike Klinzing: Yeah, that’ll do a quick, right. Get your, get, get out on track without a basketball that’ll that’ll drive guys away pretty fast.

[00:06:44] Josh Merkel: And it’s 6:00 AM was the other clincher. And so every practice was 6:00 AM for my first three years of college that we had a bunch of other good players.

[00:06:55] Mike Klinzing: So you talked a little bit there about the fact that when you’re coming out of high school, obviously, and a bunch of your teammates are going and play division one, getting basketball scholarships, and you end up going to the division three routes. So you have that experience. So when you think about yourself now as division three head coach, obviously, if you’re going to win at the level that you guys have been able to win at the division three, you have to be going out after those players who may have some opportunities to be scholarship players, whether at the division two or no kids that fall through the cracks that maybe if they were on the right situation to play division one.

So how do you use your experience back 20 years ago to have conversations with recruits or just the way maybe you approach that recruiting process with players who have. Again, probably capable of playing at a level above where you know, where you guys are.

[00:07:40] Josh Merkel: Yeah. I mean, Mike, even that question is a great one.

It shows as you’ve been doing this a long time too, and you get it, it has helped my approach helped me be more patient with guys because I wanted to play at the highest level too. And I, I did, I even pushed some D 3’s away, probably where I shouldn’t have things were a little bit different back then.

And again, I’m the oldest of nine, so it’s not like I could hop in the car and have mom and dad drive me around everywhere. In fact, the two division three visits I took, I took three actually. And that the school that probably did the best job Catholic university, I just couldn’t afford at the end of the day either that whole financial aid thing.

So but I drove myself to Salisbury in Washington and my parents weren’t involved in those particular visits. So it helps with my approach. And and then I’ve got those high school pictures up. I kinda basically say I’ve been where you got. Here’s the thing that’s important though.

At some point I’ll say, Hey, you can dream big. You know, I want you to get that offer. If you don’t, you can change your dream. You know, you can dream to be cut down a net, win a national championship, be an impact player have a seat on the bus that you can really be proud of, have a career that you can be proud of.

I just think your career is not over when you don’t get that offer. And when we get the right guys that understand that have the maturity to be able to understand that I asked guys in recruiting, are you a D one or bust guy? Meaning if you don’t get an offer, is that just going to crush you?

And you’re just going to give up basketball and some guys, yes or some guys are going to go the prep route. Some guys are going to go to the walk on. Because they feel like that’s the next best thing, which I think is pretty far from it. I think the next best thing is go be a great player at a small college and maybe prove to some people maybe we missed on that guy.

Maybe we missed on that guy. I’m going to walk on doesn’t necessarily get generate the same the same, I guess, level of, of what people would say.

[00:09:34] Mike Klinzing: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think, I forget just recently I was talking to somebody and they said that there’s so much pressure on post-school kids, especially with social media today that you think about, they all how many times do you go and scroll through social media committed here and scholarship there.

And the kids when you and I were growing up, that didn’t exist. And so you didn’t see, maybe you knew where some of your local guys were going, but you certainly didn’t know where people were going all over the country, the way kids do today. And this person said to me, basically that like. When you make a decision to go to college, there’s some fanfare in the first week or two.

And then after that, everybody just moves on it. Doesn’t, it doesn’t really matter. Like nobody remembers that you got a division, one scholarship there’s your family and maybe some of your close friends and people they have, but the greater world doesn’t necessarily remember. And I think that it speaks to right, finding the right fit and finding the right program, find the right school, find the right coaching staff.

And I think sometimes as you said, we get caught up in that, Hey, it’s division water busted. So many people I think are, are unaware of how good division three basketball is. And I think that’s one of the things that we’ve really tried to highlight you on the podcast. Josh is just in our conversations with division three, coaches is trying to get people to understand that.

The level of basketball is being played at division three. So many people are unaware of it. Cause they just either they’ve never been to a game. Or we talked to John Banes from Elmhurst and John told us, he’s like, I talked to so many recruits that they come in and they’re like, they’ve never even seen a division three game and they’re already like, eh, three whatever.

And so it’s just, I think making people aware of just how good the level of play is and how good of a player you have to be in order to play at the division three level. I think people have no understanding of that.

[00:11:26] Josh Merkel: Well, two things I’ll say to that, Mike. And I did my homework and I saw that you were a big time player thousand points scorer yourself at that level.

And it’s very cool that you would shine the light on some of the smaller college guys, because some guys that play at that level just haven’t been exposed to it. And if you don’t know, you don’t know. I think D3 gets a bad rap for a couple of reasons. Number one, the D1’s do not play great D3’s.

They just don’t there’s nothing to win. And I get that. No problem, but then they play really bad and it makes people think like this is all. And yeah, so it’s fine if you won’t play us, but I wish I, as a whole would understand I basically we talked about there six levels, there’s high, major and high level D one, and then there’s low major.

And you take that D two high and low T3 high and low, and that high major D three can compete with a certain low major and even high major D. And in our case, I mean, we, we played a top five division, two team and we’re neck and neck and one possession game at their place. You know, none of those guys are coming to us.

Even Richmond three years ago, six point game was six minutes to go. So and, and obviously we haven’t gotten a game since

[00:12:41] Mike Klinzing: Your last chance,

[00:12:41] Josh Merkel: Right. That they for a little while. I appreciate that. You know, you would, you would shine the light and maybe help some other people get some exposure and just realize, and we’ve been, so our point guard, national player of the year stud and just a really good player.

And we went through this agent process, he signed with an agent he’s going to be playing overseas. The agent said something interesting and I think it applies. He said there’s a hundred guys in Europe that should be playing in the NBA. There’s a hundred guys in the NBA that should be playing in Europe and you could easily apply that to division three and division one, a hundred guys in division three should be playing division one.

You know, we certainly have one of them. And if not a couple more as those guys mature and get into their game and, and vice versa, I mean, shoot, there’s a bunch of division one guys that could not impact and help us win.

[00:13:31] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. There’s no question about that. I think you said it, when you were talking about yourself that you had this dream of playing at the highest level.

And I think as a kid, it’s difficult to. To balance that, right? I think back to my own situation and I ended up going to what turned out to be the right place for me as a division one college basketball player. But I’m certain that I could have gone to a lot of other schools and my style of play or the type of player I was wouldn’t have meshed with that coach’s style or that coach’s personality.

I just ended up in a place where. The things that I could do were appreciated and it worked out for me. And I thought when I was hearing your story, one of the things that also struck me is just the fact that you went and made your visits by yourself and trying to figure this whole thing out.

And there just wasn’t as much information out there about what you should be doing, or shouldn’t be doing. I’ve told this story a couple of times on the podcast, but my recruiting, like when I got recruited to Kent state where I ultimately ended up going in my, in the summer before my junior year, or sorry, before my senior year, they called me up and said, Hey, we want you to come down and take an official official visit.

And I had no idea. My high school coach had never had anybody that it was at this level. And I told them, no. I said, I’m going to come down and take an unofficial visit because I still was waiting for Ohio state, North Carolina and duke. And I thought those, I thought those things were coming. I didn’t know any better.

I had a lot of division threes that I was talking to at the time that I continued to talk with them, but I didn’t have any idea of what was. Realistic for me, because I didn’t have anybody in my circle that really kind of understood what the process looked like. And so I ended up making a mistake and then had to kind of re-recruit myself back to Ken.

And that was my only division one offer. And I’m sure there were a lot of people out there that thought as kids going to go there and he’s never going to be able to, he’s never going to be able to make it. And like I said, there probably were places where that would have been the case. And I just happened to.

By sheer luck, more than anything else end up in a, in a place where it worked for me. But you see lots of kids who make that decision that don’t end up in the right place and they make decisions for the wrong reasons. And I think ultimately I think we’re doing a better job now of at least getting the word out and trying to educate people that it’s about more than just, Hey, the level and what I can post on social media.

It’s really about what’s my experience going to be like for four years, what kind of school am I going to? What kind of coach am I going to play for? And ultimately look, the reason why we all started playing is because we want to play. And if you’re going to go sit on the bench or as you said go the walkout route.

I mean, we all know that’s not an easy, that’s not an easy route to go. And if you’re going to, if you’re going to go through the grind of, of a college basketball season with little to no chance to play. And I did that quite a bit. My freshman year, man, that was by far the toughest year of my life to go through and to do all the things that are required and then knock it out on the floor.

That’s, that’s a challenge. And so I think what we’ve tried to do again, like I said, is just make sure that in our conversations with division three coaches, to try to give them the opportunity to talk about just how good the level of play is and how good you have to be to be able to play at that level.

And I think you did a good job of explaining that with the story that you just told about, Hey, there’s a hundred guys that could be here versus there. And that level it’s really about finding the right.

[00:16:54] Josh Merkel: Yeah. Yeah. I mean there was a quote from a guy that’s a really good player at Randolph-Macon years ago.

And a reporter said Hey, I know you’ve thought about it. And I know you’ve probably had some interest or offers to play higher. You know, why haven’t you? And he basically said, I’m where I’m supposed to be. And so for that young man at that time to be able to deliver that message, something we all can learn from in here.

And even in my own shoes, I’m like, man, that hits home. Like I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be at, at the level. And at the school has been a good marriage and a good fit. And you just appreciate the guys that are blooming, where they’re planted being where their feet are, because that’s such a great thing in life to have that To just man, I’m where I’m supposed to be.

If you can do that in life with your job with your marriage is going to be a good life. And I think everyone else look at the transfer that people are chasing. They’re chasing the next hip. So the endorphins and everything, and I think that’s what happens a lot of times, like guys are transferring starters, leaving Kentucky for what it’s like, because they’re chasing that feeling they got and all the attention that they got and then you’re not getting it.

And they don’t know where to turn in, in my opinion.

[00:18:01] Mike Klinzing: I’m with you a hundred percent. I just think that the transfer portal I get, I get the benefits of it for players. And I’m not sure that the old system. Coaches could leave at their own volition and then players were stuck. I’m not sure that that was great either, but what we’ve set up now is just everybody and it’s, it’s invaded at lower levels too, if down the high schools.

And you think about just what a looks like and guys jumping from this team to that team. And it’s, it’s something that I think we’re going to have to continue to wrestle with and figure out how do we make, how do we get this situation where there’s a balance between giving kids an opportunity. If they end up in a place that maybe isn’t the right fit for them, or it isn’t what they thought versus like, everybody just is jumping at the next opportunity.

And as you said, chasing those endorphins and chasing again, that recognition that maybe they had previously, and it has to be about, it has to be about more than just what’s happening on the basketball floor. You really got to consider again, what, what it’s like socially, what it’s like academically for you at a school.

And that to me is really, really critical as we start looking at what this is all about.

[00:19:04] Josh Merkel: But Mike it’s amazing. Maybe if listeners get one thing, but you know, recruiting every day for me. And one thing that I’m still a. Having a hard time with is this like for my son, I want him to be surrounded by great people and who you work for matters or the leader in that program matters.

And the fact that people leave that to chance the fact that people will turn down what they know for the, the hope for a higher level and who cares, what type of guys are in there? I’m not saying bad character, but maybe they’re a little more selfish or maybe it’s a losing culture.

And they just don’t even know, like guys are saying no to us in hopes that someone will come along and have no relationship with that guy. So me I’m trying to get through that as much as possible and, and kind of fleshed through. So we’re not wasting time on, on those guys or that mindset and that family that.

The level is what matters more than the people. I just don’t understand why people don’t spend more time even asking me good questions about all right. What is your philosophy? How do you teach leadership? What is your vision for my son off the court? I mean, people just don’t even ask it

[00:20:19] Mike Klinzing: well and Let’s take that off the table and just think about the fact that look, what do most kids that are playing basketball? They dream about what playing in the NBA, not realistic for most kids, but. Being able to play professionally is way more realistic than it’s ever been in the past, just because of the explosion of basketball internationally.

So here you are with the division three player that you’re just describing for us, it’s going to play professionally overseas. You don’t have to be a division one player to go and be able to make a living and travel and get those experiences. That again are invaluable when you’re a young person to be able to go and travel and play basketball.

And if you take advantage of all the things that can go along with that, I mean, it doesn’t have to be, there’s more than one path to get to where you want to go. And I think you make a great point that. You’re amazed. And, and I can speak to this, just talking to parents and sitting in stands and listening to people talk that they really don’t.

People get themselves all worked up at all levels. I mean, you’d go down to second, third grade and people are going to showcases and trying to get ranked and worried about this and that ultimately. I think what you want to have is a good experience and you have a good experience, as you said, by being surrounded by the right people and that right people can include your coaching staff and include your teammates, includes the kind of culture that you want to build.

And if you get in that environment, you’re going to have success. How do we want to define that everybody defines it slightly differently, but to me getting in the right fit and finding the right place is, is critical. So if any, buddy’s out there and it’s been a recurring theme, but you know, recruits parents, high school coaches, those are the kinds of questions.

What you just described that people should be asking. You should be asking anybody, any place you’re considering going and ask those questions. Like, how are we going to develop you? Not only as a basketball player, but as a human being, as a leader. And then we’ll, how much do we care about you as not just a basketball player, but as a person that, that to me is critical.

[00:22:19] Josh Merkel: And I would want to sit down and have some lunch with the players in that program. You know, when my sons, if they good enough to play somewhere like, Hey, let’s go have lunch with your team or some members on the team and then good culture. You can feel it like you really can’t, you’re going to be able to get a good sense of what the coaching is like and what those guys, how connected they are, how committed they are and will.

And also if you can play with those guys, even, even better.

[00:22:45] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. That’s the missing piece, right? Sometimes you, again, it goes back to how many division three games have you seen as a recruit? Do you know how good those kids are and where to step out on the floor with them? Men? You mean people again, have no idea how fine that line is and how good you have to be in order to, in order to be able to play college basketball.

So think of back, you mentioned earlier that you kind of always had in mind that at some point you wanted to get into coaching, you said, Hey, high school coaching. Being a high school, being a high school teacher being high school coast. That was kind of where you start and that’s where you started your career.

So talk a little bit about that first experience, getting out and getting into coaching. And then, and then as you talk a little bit about your high school experience, we can talk about how the opportunity comes for you to get the GA job at West Virginia and then, and then move into the college ranks, but start out with your high school experience as a coach.

[00:23:34] Josh Merkel: Yeah. So I played four years of Salisbury. I graduated from there. And I got connected right away with my with Bruce Kelly. Who’s it prospect also my Alma mater had a different coach by the time I graduated and I had gone back and practiced with him, Bruce, a former D one assistant coach to the American phenomenal guys, still a mentor to me to this day, coaches at Bullis high school in Maryland.

And so I got connected with Bruce. I was his JV assistant or excuse me, varsity assistant and JV head coach there for three years. It was also running my own program for a couple of those years. I mean, I was all in, I was helping with the JV workouts, the varsity workouts. My mom was coaching on the, on the women’s side for a couple of years, my two sisters were playing on the women’s team.

I’d help them where I could, it was like a family affair over there. And I loved it. I was doing personal training on the side or basketball training on the side. And the opportunity. So what happened was Jeff Neubauer came and spoke at camp and he and Bruce Kelly had a connection. And I was just asking him about offense for my JV team and move hours, a wizard offensively.

And we connected through that talk and he said we’re gonna have a GA position a year from now. You should apply basically. All right. Hey, send me an email just stay in touch with me. So sure enough, I would watch every West Virginia game and I I wasn’t crazy with it, but. At least once a week, I’d shoot him an email, a question or two.

Hey, well, what’s the bottom guys responsible? And the went through, I mean, this is for the whole season. And I went up there. I interviewed, I think it helped that I was a little bit older of a GA. I was 25 at the time. I just put three years in of high school coaching. I know Bielein. He liked that. He liked it.

I, I wasn’t in a relationship. I was single, ready to just get to work. I know he liked that. And then we joke I, I say, coach, I know it was like your 10th choice. He’s like, no, Josh, you were like my 15th choice. He had some good former players. And so here I go from division three player in high school assistant to a big east GA we start the year by going to Europe and playing on a tour 10 days over there.

And then that particular year was the Pitsnoggle Gansey his son beeline good player. It was the elite eight and is a basket away or a stop away from beating Pitino and going to the final four. That was my first experience in college coaching. Jeff Neubauer was the head coach or excuse me, associated coach based on our run.

He gets the job at Eastern Kentucky and he takes me with him. So now at 26, I’m a OVC assistant coach. And for the next five years, I was, I was with Jeff and some great coaches there. Ted hotelling is head coach at new Haven, David Boyden, his assistant UNC G Dale Wellman won a national championship with Nebraska Wesleyan.

So, so he worked there as well. Just some really good guys

[00:26:14] Mike Klinzing: was the decision to go from high school. To college. What were some of the factors that you considered when you thought about making that leap? Because obviously as a high school teacher and coach, you’re making at least some money and now you’re going to go and say, I’m going to go and be a GA.

And so you’re kind of taking a, you’re taking a slight step back. When it comes to your, your personal income there, but what was your thought process in terms of that and kind of moving your life ahead, but was it just, Hey, I got to take this, I got to take this leap now, or maybe it never appens.

[00:26:51] Josh Merkel: Well, it’s funny, Mike.  I mean, everyone talks about when they go back, how much, little, how little they were making, but I was making 21,000. I remember it was a $1,500 stipend. So I was up to 20, 25. So it wasn’t that much of a hit the West Virginia stipend was 10,000. So you weren’t doing too bad. I was not getting slammed and, and you know, and then classes being paid for too.

So I was able to get my master’s while I was there in athletic coaching. The mindset was, there were even a few parents it’s a private school that even though I was super qualified and cared like crazy about. Parents are a bit crazy at times. And so some of them didn’t, didn’t like how I was using their son.

Let’s say I can remember pretty vividly just being like, man here, I’m getting criticized, but people that did not play college ball, I mean, I’ve done that. All I do is study this game. And I came from a unbelievable high school program. I mean, I was pretty far ahead of the game. And I say that humbly, but that, that got me thinking, man.

I mean, if, if that’s how this is, I should at least look into and you know, again, like I’m not married, no kids at the time. Like if I’m going to do this thing, why not try it? And if it doesn’t work out, come right back to high school.

[00:28:03] Mike Klinzing: So the transition, what, what did you immediately like about. College basketball compared to your high school experience.

[00:28:12] Josh Merkel: I mean the pressure in a way the high stakes that you know, working with great players, older guys, maturity you know, I think for me that 18 to 22 range is certainly better, although I love the high school level and the impact that you can have at either level. But with the maturity, I think w was better for me.

And then the experience I got my PhD work with John beeline. So we’re, we’re talking about a hall of Famer who teaches you everything in terms of having a language for everything that you do. Turnover prevention. I mean, just how he sees the game, the film that we’re gonna watch daily.

I mean, all of these things are things that I’ve internalized and do with our program now, in terms of the film and how we take care of the ball and find a secondary defense is gonna mess with teams. So just super grateful for that that year. Yeah, I got with coach.

[00:29:01] Mike Klinzing: What was the leap like to go from a GA to you’re a full fledged assistant at Eastern Kentucky?

What was that like? Both in terms of responsibilities, things that you needed to do, just what was that adjustment? And obviously, again, you’re talking about two different levels of division one between West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. So just, what was that transition like for you going, going from West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky?

[00:29:23] Josh Merkel: Yeah. I mean, for me, I’ve always been a worker and a grinder and got that from my dad. So I don’t have many hobbies outside. I like reading and working out. So it’s like, you know I felt prepared going into each of these, I’ve played with high level players in high school. So I wasn’t it was an easy transition for me working with Big East Guys and then even OVC guys.

And I’m a relationship guy. So building relationships with players is the part that I really enjoy. And, and then the recruiting. So it was really. Loved our staff and just I’ve got a growth mindset. So I just went in, let me learn everything, let me be a sponge. Do whatever coach wants me to do, be all in for my, for my group.

And it was a blast the workouts you know, taking copious notes and saving those notebooks. And yeah, I guess I guess that would sum it up, but the, the high stakes, the pressure, I, I kind of welcomed that stuff too, that each game and each day matters and you can’t have a bad day.

[00:30:18] Mike Klinzing: What’s one or two things that you would take away from your time as an assistant at Eastern Kentucky, that you feel like you still maybe fall back on when you’re thinking about trying to help the coaches that are part of your staff as an assistant, like, Hey, here’s something that I learned that made me a better assistant that you share as a head coach with your assistants or your state.

[00:30:38] Josh Merkel: Oh man, that’s it. That’s a good question, Mike. That’s all like a hard thing to boil down into a couple. Because you’re just so like you’re, you’re just in it, it’s like all day, all year, you internalize a lot of things. Looking back, I mean, relationships is everything. I try to make sure guys understand, like the guys that I’m still close with many of those players and definitely close with the guys on that staff.

And so just having that care for one another is something that I want to take with me wherever. Wherever we are. And I want our players to also understand how important the impact of relationships, relationships are life. I, I once read a quality life or the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships.

And so I’d say getting the right people on the bus is one of the biggest things and Nuebs was so organized with how he thought through the game and, and everything else that came with it. So just learned a lot about being forward-thinking and having a vision and a plan for how you wanted to play and how you wanted to win.

[00:31:40] Mike Klinzing: As you think about that relationship piece, and let’s apply it to what you’ve been able to do at Randolph Macon. How do you go about through the recruiting process, making sure that you have the right guys, what are some of those intangible things that a you look for when you’re going to watch a player and then how do you.

How do you identify whether or not that kid has the sort of intangibles? What kind of questions are you asking them? What are you looking for from them? Again, obviously they have to have a skill set. That’s going to enable them to play at your level. But what do you look for from an intangible standpoint to know that they’re going to fit in with your program?

[00:32:25] Josh Merkel: Yeah. And, and we’ve really tried to narrow this down. I, I wish there was one or two questions. I will try to make it a system of recruiting. I would say you’ve got to get them to be open and honest, tell the truth, be vulnerable. That can be hard in itself to get a guy to open up. There’s a lot of things that you want to do.

You want to get them on your campus? You want to spend that time with them. You want them spending time with your guys? I mean, we trust our guys a ton and I think that’s an important piece. Guys. Tell us what you think. You know, guys can put on a show sometimes it’s like a job interview.

Everyone knows how to ACE the job interview.  I’ve learned that I think kids come in the recruiting process. They tell you everything you want to hear how hard they’re going to work, but they’re just looking for the right. Which isn’t always the case. The they’re, they’re just waiting for the, for their level or they’re waiting for an offer.

I don’t know what self-awareness as a superpower, Mike, we say that a lot in our program, we say truth over harmony. So I want to give some kids some truth in the recruiting process. I want to tell them things that I see, like, Hey, we wouldn’t accept this here. And I want to see how they respond. So but true over harmony is a big one.

And the self-awareness even because. Do they think they’re better than they are. That’s going to be a problem. Now. It can be a good thing too. I want confidence. All right. We’re not trying to shoot a guy down, but his relationship to feedback is really important. I think that’s what I’m saying is your self-awareness is well, coach, what do you see?

You know, how engaged are they? Will they be proactive about the feedback loop? You know, I mean, it’s not rocket science, what we want really good players. And I think so you have that baseline of athleticism. Do they have a strength that will carry over and can they be the best at it on our team? So when you’re hired for a business, you want to hire for strength, we try to apply that in recruiting.

Why would we hire Mike for our team? Well, this guy shoots the heck out of it. Okay. He shoots it better than anybody we have. Okay. Probably going to get on the floor for us. So we look for the strengths. You know, we look for a reason that’s going to get them on the floor. I wanna, I want to be able to, like, they’ve got to have a role.

They’ve got to have something that they can do. Like we took a guy that’s not a great shooter. But he’s a great rebounder. He’s a good versatile defender. And that guy started for us versus the three. Then move them to the four because he has a strength that that’s a high enough level to help us win a champion.

[00:34:46] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. Being able to find a kid that has the right roll. Good. They can have something that they can bring to the table that you know, that you can count on that skill day in day out. That makes a huge, huge difference. I thought it was interesting that you just said there was talking about how players react to feedback.

And probably two, three months ago, we had mark Hendrickson on the podcast and mark is one of, I think, 12 people to ever play major league baseball. And in the NBA and mark was talking about what it means to be a pro athlete. And he said in his mind, what sets a pro athlete apart from somebody who’s not a pro is their ability to very, very quickly self-assess self-correct mistakes.

So they’re never looking to externalize. Blame for what happened. They’re always looking to internalize the situation, say, what could I have done better or what was wrong about my technique? And he said that pro athletes that he’s been around that are super successful, they’re able to make that correction.

And then they’re also always seeking feedback. From coaching staff, players, teammates, Hey, what can I do better? How can I do this and get better at it? I think that that’s an underrated skill for any athlete is the ability to take coaching and internalize it in such a way that you recognize that this coach is trying to make me a better player.

Whereas too often, I think, especially when you go down to the younger levels, how do kids tend to look at that? They tend to look at it as criticism and they get defensive and why didn’t do that? Or I I will look at what I’m doing here. And I think that ability to take feedback to me is critical.

I think it’s, I think that’s a great point that you bring up in terms of how you end up maximizing your kid’s ability. If they’re willing to take coaching men, you can, you can get so much more out of them.

[00:36:44] Josh Merkel: Well, none of us ever got good by ourselves. And that’s the thing. And it’s like, we’re here to partner.

I mean, we love partnerships with our guys to help get them to the best version of themselves. And if they’re going to be resistant to that, then we can’t even do our job. And so trust is going to be big. And I think you’re building that in the recruiting process the whole time. And it’s like little things you ask them, tell me about your career.

Tell me about your high school career. Go all the way back to freshman year. You know, some about your relationship with your coach. You know, I mean, that uncovers a lot guys will talk about their high school coach and, you know the, the way that some of those guys answer that question, it’s like that guy that guy’s not going to have a fit here and it helps us cause we just move on

[00:37:29] Mike Klinzing: When you’re recruiting, how do you balance what you see from a player with their high school team versus what you see.

When they’re with their AAU team, how do you balance that out? Is there one particular thing you’re looking for in one situation and not the other, just how do you balance that?

[00:37:45] Josh Merkel: I think multiple evaluations can be good. What I’ve learned is you really have to be careful. We’ve got a great player for us now, starter all league guy that I don’t know that he was on an AAU team that his strengths showed.

And so thankfully I didn’t see him with his AUU team because if I saw it with his AAU team, I don’t think he would’ve stood out to me. And we saw him with his high school team. And so that that’s, I mean, and I saw them, I went to see a different kid. He was a sophomore. I was like, man, that kid is going to be a college player.

And then he looked good at would that high school, junior year. And then I saw him a few that junior year. And I’m like, is this the same kid? I wasn’t sure. Like, are we making a mistake? And I play with our guys and the guys loved how he drove, drove and kicked. And so, okay. Let’s go, Josh, come on. And So it’s like Mike, I sometimes, and I’ve been doing this for a while.

Like, I don’t, you have to be careful. Like you can see somebody play like we’ve got Pittsburgh and hoop group next weekend. Everybody’s got their different events, right. For these last periods can go to, but you can almost you have to be careful. You want to do a thin slice, see a kid get a feel, but you can also make mistakes.

One of my mentors, Nathan Davis, who was head coach at Bucknell would say, Josh, I’ve made a hundred mistakes in recruiting and I’m gonna make a hundred more tomorrow. And that’s recruiting, man. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s trying not to make the same ones and trying not to make them over and over again or too many.

[00:39:09] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. I’m well, you and I are going to have to connect in person cause I’m going to be out in Pittsburgh next weekend with my son. So this will be our first time. He’s a sophomore. This will be our first time really getting out and we’ve played, we played pretty much locally up to this point. And we’re we’re going to take his team that I’m, I’m just a parent on the team.

I’m just I’m along for the ride, but I’m going to be out there. So we’ll have to, we’ll have to make sure we connect we are Mac basketball, 2024 Izzy Izzy RT is our team national

[00:39:36] Josh Merkel: Mac asketball. Okay.

[00:39:37] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. Yeah. So we’ve got a nice we’ve got a nice group. It’s a, it’s a group that has I think a lot of kids that are going to be, have some ability to play at the, at the D three level for sure.

And it’s a, it’s a fun group to be around. So we’re curious to see they’ve done played two tournaments locally played really well. You know, we’re curious to see when they get out and travel and go a little bit go a little bit higher level. What it looks like. It’s been fun for my son cause he’s.

Just caught the bug in the last probably year and a half and the light bulbs come on for them. And so it’s kind of fun to see him play at you know, playing with some better, some better kids. And it’s been, it’s been a good experience for her. So I’m looking forward to that for sure.

[00:40:13] Josh Merkel: Also.

[00:40:14] Mike Klinzing: All right.

So after you leave Eastern Kentucky, then you go and you at Randolph-Macon going back to the division three level, going back to your roots as a player, what’s that transition? Like what do you think about in terms of obviously at a division one level, you have a bigger budget, you got a bigger staff now you’re at the division three level.

What was that transition like for you? Obviously you were already familiar with the level of play and sort of how things went. Not on the coaching side of it. So what, what do you remember about that?

[00:40:45] Josh Merkel: Not only coach has sought and I would say that the program I played in didn’t have maybe the same infrastructure systems, commitment of the players that was in place.

Randolph-Macon with the coaches that have come before. Mike Rosas, before Nathan, I worked for Nathan Davis. It was really good for me cause I wanted to see how, how do you run a high level division three program? And I got to, got to see it that year. You know, they had just been to the final four the year before they returned just about everybody from that team.

And so I think we went 25 and five the year that I was an assistant and it was a bunch of it was high level team and group that was really well coached by Nathan Davis. So I was thankful for my time at Eastern Kentucky, because I thought in recruiting, it helped me hit the ground running, working at a place where you did have to beat the bushes and recruit a wider geographical area.

I was able to just. You know, start calling Charlotte and let’s recruit Charlotte. We ended up getting two kids out of Charlotte. You know, I already knew guys in Maryland, but we hit, hit the ground in Maryland. We recruited Virginia, you recruit Pennsylvania, you recruit. And there’s not many guys in Delaware, but Jersey is a, is another state.

So you’ve got maybe Spacely drove about a four to six hour radius and try to make sure every kid in Virginia. So I would say, and I’m the only assistant at the time we had another volunteer that would show up for practice, but it’s I’m responsible for the Scouts responsible for the recruiting.

It was, it was a grind. You know, you go from a staff of six to a staff of two, and it makes you prioritize. There’s still working to develop and spend time with the players. But it was a heck of a transition, but it was a great one too, because Nathan empowered me. He gave me a lot of responsibility.

I learned a lot that year based on how he allowed me to grow.

[00:42:32] Mike Klinzing: Did you feel like you made that move with the idea that being a division three head coach was something that was going to be in your future based on the fact that that was the level that you played at. Was there a, was there a part of you that was wanting to get back to that level with the idea that Hey, as I progressed down my career and I started looking at what’s going to be a good fit for me, rather than continuing to sort of chase.

Division one assistant role that may be go back and go in division three, that, that might’ve been a path for you to get to a head coaching position and be at the division three level. Is that kind of your thought process?

[00:43:04] Josh Merkel: That was, I mean, if you’d ask me, and if someone did year three Eastern Kentucky, would you want to go coach division three, go back to Salisbury?

I was like, no I was still in it and still learning and growing. And year five, it wasn’t that I wasn’t doing those things, but it’s like, all right, what a six year here versus one year in this program help better prepare me for being a head coach. I mean, that’s what I wanted to be. So I knew I could toil division one for another 25 years to maybe get a terrible job or, or one just really hard to win.

And so I started looking at that and also I couldn’t get involved with the division three jobs, being a division one assistant a lot of times they just, they want to get one of their own. And so I couldn’t even get involved for an interview in the league that I played in and that got my wheels turning basically in year four.

And then in year five. And also being the oldest of nine felt like I was missing out on all my, my siblings growing up, being in Kentucky. And you can’t choose your job certainly in coaching a lot of times or. You can’t just pick it individually one, for sure. So when Randolph-Macon came open, it was like an opportunity to get back to the east coast and get back home and also put myself in a position where I could really learn.

And then if an opportunity popped up, because here’s the thing that Nathan said, he said, I want a two year commitment. The only exception would be if your Alma mater opens up and ensure enough, I was only with them for a year because Salisbury opened. And I went through that process. It’s the only job that I interviewed for and ended up getting it and being there for four years before coming back to make, what did that,

[00:44:40] Mike Klinzing: What did that interview process look like for you?  What do you remember about it?

[00:44:44] Josh Merkel: Oh man, you would ask me that it was, it was special because of many of the coaches that were there when I was a player were still there. So it was given some hugs, first-hand shakes. Even the custodian man, big Mike, who was my guy who would play with us every once in a while just sharing a big hug with that guy.

He’s like, oh my gosh, you might be the coach. It was, it was a cool, a cool moment. Seeing him again, but special place in my heart to, to have the chance to go back at the school that I played. And that was a great four years. And I met my wife there, Morgan. She was working in student activities and you know, that’s the other thing division one, man, we were grinding and I had blinders on and it was all about career career.

And so you know, it was nice to be able to, cause I didn’t want to have a family and be a, be a husband and a dad at some point. So maybe maybe offered the opportunity for that.

[00:45:34] Mike Klinzing: So when you first got that job, you feel like that was like, that was the destination because that was your Alma mater.

[00:45:41] Josh Merkel: I felt like I could have retired there, Mike, if you know, if I could have helped, if I could have kept the standard then I felt like that would have been a great yeah, it was a dream to go back and coach my Alma mater and be alongside some of those coaches and players that were, that were there.  It’s a great spot

[00:45:56] Mike Klinzing: When the opportunity comes at Randolph-Macon what does that look like? What, what’s the discussion that you have with your wife? What does that look like in terms of, Hey, again, this is my Alma mater. This is a place that we feel. Man, we could, we could probably spend our life here, but what made Randolph-Macon the right opportunity, obviously you had already been there.

So you’d kind of been behind the curtain and knew what the program was all about, what the potential was, but just talk a little bit about what you saw on Randolph-Macon that made you want to make that jump.

[00:46:24] Josh Merkel: Yeah. I mean, you alluded to it. I had been there rich tradition. I mean, basketball is super important athletics in general, and then not that it isn’t as Salisbury, but also the, the geography of it.

Being able to raise a family in Richmond and my wife who had basically had gone to undergrad at Salisbury and I got her master’s and then I’m like, if she never gets to try any other job, man, I hope that’s going to be okay. 10 years, 15 years from now because I’m going to be locked in here. If I want to keep coaching.

And so I think it provided me because she works in higher ed still she has a job at Randolph-Macon working in student in academics. And so just felt like there would be more opportunities. There’s only so many players, only one college on the Eastern shore there and only so many opportunities.

So it was, it was a family decision. We were we were expecting our first at the time and, and I think ran off bacon. Jeff Burns did a good job of saying you’re our guy, we want you here. And this is why we think you can be successful

[00:47:23] Mike Klinzing: When you get there. Obviously there’s a tradition of success already in place.

And so clearly there’s a difference between taking over a program where you got to rebuild everything, you’re coming into a place that has had previous success, that you know, that the things that you need are in place, but when you first got the job, what was your first priority or two that you looked at and said, if we’re going to get this program, the vision that I have for it, what are some things that we need to do right out of the gate to get it going in the direction that you wanted to get it.

[00:47:58] Josh Merkel: Well, I know that the first thing I’ll say working for Nathan, I bought these one of the best I’ve ever been around. And I said, man, I wouldn’t want to follow this guy. And then I forgot my own advice. It w it was a tough transition, Mike, I would say that that was the toughest one of all. And just because.

My last year of Salisbury, because I took over a program that has basically been 500. Maybe if you look at the record over, over the, maybe the history of that program. And we had some good years my year two and year four 21 wins. It was like the fifth most in school history at the time. So maybe the fifth and sixth best records.

And in two of my four years there. And so I felt like I was figuring some things out until I wasn’t, because it’s completely different set of well, it’s completely different people. 17 guys, I took over that. I did not recruit one of them. I didn’t have relationships built up. You can’t, you know fast forward that stuff, the trust hadn’t been built and yet they went 28 and three, the year before I got there, then they graduated seven seniors.

And so you get this young group that thinks it’s their turn, but they’re nowhere near ready and don’t meet the standard. I remember driving to see all the incoming freshmen and building those relationships. And those guys were the backbone of the program and helped plant the seeds for what was to come because they were better the freshman class better than the sophomore class.

So a sophomore class started kind of dropping out of hoop. Which can happen and would have been fine if Nathan was still the coach. I mean, he would have coached the heck out of that team at 20 wins. I did not do a good job in that transition. And so I’ve, I’ve owned that. And I, I tell my age there there’s hundreds of things.

I would do different if I could do it over again. I, I say it all falls on me or we went 13 and 14, I believe that year. And we should have been better. We underachieved. And it’s because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I would’ve been better, better off if it was my first job, because you’re taking some things that have worked or didn’t work, but it was not we got through it.

This is what I’ll say we got through it, Mike. And my first three years of rent off making, we did not win ODAC playoff game. And that was tough, man, at a place where they expect to win and win and win a national championship. You know, seven most wins in division three. You’re expected to win and to not even win.

And by the way, were the two seed in the one seed, two of those three years, like, it’s not like we didn’t have bat. It’s not like we had bad regular seasons. But it, it created something in us adversity as a requirement for growth, it created something it’s the power of every possession. You know, having an attitude, a mistake response so much good came out of that.

And I think the, the growth happens in the extreme. We had an extreme low to help, help build and get to a higher place

[00:50:46] Mike Klinzing: In order to do that. I’ve heard you say the word relationships a bunch of times, and you think about if you’re going to get where you want to go, you got to build those relationships with players.

So you have the trust that you talked about. What are some things that you’ve done over your time there to build relationships with your players? How do you go about doing that on a day to day basis? Is it through. Informal conversation. And are there, are there formal things that you make sure you do with your guys?

Just how do you go about building those relationships? What does that look like?  

[00:51:17] Josh Merkel: I think the biggest thing is everybody wants to know. Coach hears me. Coach sees me uniquely. I think that’s huge. And so we’re going to do all of the above informal, formal all kinds of systems for, for meetings. I don’t want to overdo it.

You know, we’re going to do a post-season. I want to hear from them. I want to hear what they have to say. Especially when it doesn’t match up. I mean, I love to start, start certain meetings. Do you want the truth or you want harmony? We say true and over harmony all the time. Trust. Doesn’t happen without truth and truth doesn’t happen without trust.

And so you got to build that. They say love is spelled T I M E. And so spending time with them, which we don’t get to be on the court with the guys. So how can you build some sweat equity or at least until the season hits? You know, I’m still unfortunate 42 healthy knock on wood, but I still get out there in season and we do all star games and I play with the guys and it was a great growth for me.

I get to really learn about them. This is like the young guys or the lower minute guys teaches me a lot about what they need. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I can’t play anymore, because it just gives me great feedback and helps. And then it’s like, when I can go get a layup on you or make a shot against you, you’re you’re a little more like, how is this old guy?

He’s still getting buckets. Okay. I better pay attention to what he’s saying a little bit more.

[00:52:33] Mike Klinzing: I think have stuff. That’s good stuff. I love that. Yeah. You hold onto your playing career for as long as you can, Mike. Mine ended. I think at 42 43, I was playing in a tournament with some of my college teammates and tore my ACL.

And in the middle of it, it didn’t didn’t even realize that. I mean, I felt like it was some weird apple, my knee. It felt like my one part of my leg went one way. And determined had just started. And I’m like, Ooh, that felt weird. And we had six guys. And so I went out in the hallway after the game and I’m jogging, I’m cutting out.

I’m like, ah, I think I can, I think I can play. And went back and played like eight more minutes to the next game and got that same feeling again and came home. Swelled up. And eventually I went to the doctor and they’re like, yeah. So that was, that was the end of my, that was the end of my playing career.

So I guess couldn’t play enough. You know, I felt like if I could play three or four days a week, I’d probably be okay. But once I got to 42, 43 plan, once every three weeks or once a month, it just wasn’t, it wasn’t cutting it anymore, unfortunately. But yeah. Hold onto your hold onto your ability to play for as long as you can.

[00:53:40] Josh Merkel: I’m hoping it doesn’t end in an ACL tears. Yeah, yeah,

[00:53:43] Mike Klinzing: Well, you’re either right? The old man basketball injuries already, they’re going to ACL tear Achilles. Those are the two you see guys go down with all the time. If you’re still playing at a certain age, some guys avoid it.

And I was never, I never had an injury as a player, I never had a roll back ankle. I never heard a knee, a bad angle thing. And so I was super fortunate and and then it all, it all ends. It all ends with the tornado, with the torn ACL. So that’s the way it goes. How did you go about as a head coach?

Obviously you worked for some great guys and we had the opportunity to play for some really good coaches. When you started thinking about how you wanted your teams to play, what did you, what you wanted them to look like out on the basketball floor, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint. When do you feel like in your career, you had a handle on sort of the way you wanted to play.

And obviously the games evolving, you’re constantly learning and adjusting and, and doing things differently, but clearly there’s a style of play that you have that you want to be able to Institute with your team. So when do you feel like you had a pretty good handle on, Hey, this is what I’m about as a coach.

[00:54:52] Josh Merkel: I mean, I almost want to say it’s still evolving, but I will say we’re not going to beat ourselves. You know, that’s a beeline and a Belicheck thing. We’re going to take care of that ball. You know, transition D as a result is going to be pretty good. We’re going to make everything tough. Defensively, nothing, no rocket science here.

We, we were all man. I’m a big man to man guy, but then you know, we tinkered with the 1, 3, 1 wasn’t great with our personnel. I see Dale Wellman, good buddy of mine. I worked with him at Eastern Kentucky, win a national championship with a three-two zone and he and I talk about it. And so we put it in, but we don’t work on it at sun, but that thing was needed for this year’s team and personnel and that evolved and really got better as we worked on it more this year.

So we’ll go into next year and we’ll have both man and the three, two, and we’ll see does it work for this group and this personnel? You know, we like, I know one year we were good, but it played 99%. And then this year we were pretty good in played 70% men, 30% zone. So all offensively, man, I messed up again at first year because I felt a little more better with maybe four out, five out open spacing pro style stack concepts.

Nathan was such a good motion coach, and I felt like they won with it. So who am I to come in here with the new approach that really is based on taking is based on player strengths. And there was there wasn’t a ton of separation. Like we had one all league guy and then like two through 15, like on any given day, it was really hard to protect kind of coach that group in that way.

So what we have now is we’re going to play the guys string. Hunt, the paint play inside out, play unselfish, basketball. You know, we’re going to make some calls, but I love when those guys can play freely within the structure, make those reads that they need to make. And it takes time.

I mean, I’m always like in the beginning you can ask my assistant. I’m like, why don’t we have a system? Like, I mean, this started this year, like I’m watching ball, screen motion, I’m watching Roanoke and they’re crisp and they’re firing. And, and I’m like, why aren’t we running a system? But by the end of the year, I think our players appreciate almost like a jazz where you have creativity, every possession.

And we don’t exactly know what it’s going to look like, but guys can really play the strengths. They understand each other, they get to breed the defense. And it’s a fun way to play. But the thing is you better not turn it over while we’re figuring it out.

[00:57:18] Mike Klinzing: Okay. How does that play into your practice design?

So when you’re putting together your practice plans, you’re thinking about how you’re trying to develop. You’re trying to develop guys IQ. You’re trying to get them to learn how to play the game. You’re not just having them run through again. It’s the old thing you’re sitting. You’re teaching them how to play.

You’re not teaching them plays, but we all know that’s a little messier. And like you just said, it doesn’t always look pretty, especially at the beginning when guys are trying to figure it out. So when you’re putting together your practices, let’s just say in the pre-season where you’re trying to kind of teach your style of play to.

Guys that are new to the program. And you’re, you’re relying on your upperclassmen to put that in. Just what does practice design look like for you?

[00:57:58] Josh Merkel: I mean, competition is going to be a huge piece of it. So yeah, we’re going to keep score and early on we’re we’re going to run for that. We call them winners and learners.

Learners are gonna run. I think that’s how you build the effort. I think you can throw everything else out the window if you’re not getting great effort. And and I’ve made that mistake before too X and O’s schemes. Okay. I know how to do this. And we know how to you know, switch a ball screen and they get the triple switch and all that stuff.

None of that stuff matters if you’re not playing with great effort all the time with consistency. So now it’s more let’s say constraints with some of our drills. We like to call them drills to create self-awareness. So the guys can really learn. What they do better what their strength is and who they’re playing with.

I mean, if you, if you’re a big time shooter and I’m not finding you, you know then that’s a problem. If you’re a big time shooter, but you can’t get ignition, then you know, I’m going to challenge you like, Mike, why are you putting the ball on the floor? You’re killing me off offense every time you do it.

And where are you going? You’re not getting anywhere. Let, let buzz go create the ignition. And he’s going to put it on a platter. He’s going to get you a thousand points just by you get into space and you learn how to move and be a cutter. So I mean, I guess those drills help guys really become more aware and, and we’ll dial in on that, you know really being a stud with your strengths.

[00:59:20] Mike Klinzing: What do you track and chart during practice?

[00:59:23] Josh Merkel: Anything? Do you have a manage your tracking. It almost like value points. So at the end of the day Mike Scott plus 30 and Josh says plus 20 and we’ve got kind of a system there, nothing crazy field goals made, attempted you know, rebound steals, deflections.

I will say the big three stats that we really pay attention to in games are going to be the field goal differential. The turnover differential and a rebound differential. I mean, it’s nothing, no rocket science, nothing different than what a lot of people are tracking. We also write down charges that we take and we write down how many stops in a row.

You know, we call them bricks. People have different names for it. But we want to get seven of those in a game.

[01:00:01] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. I think you have, if you have things that right, your players understand that, Hey, this is what we’re looking for. And it sounds like from from what you’re talking about, that the ability to value the ball.

And not turn it over. And again, if you’re going to give your players the freedom to play loose, like you said, they have to be able to play free and loose, but within there’s some expectations, right? It’s the with with, with, with great you know, freedom comes great responsibility. And so if you’re going to be, if you’re going to be given the opportunity to go in and play with the, without a lot of constraints, then you have to be able to be trusted.

And it goes through that whole thing and being able to build it out with your players so that you can play that style of play. And obviously it’s something that’s right. It’s attractive to players. Players don’t necessarily enjoy going through, Hey, we’re going to run we’re going to run this this continuity or offense where I got to keep doing the same thing over and over again.

I think players, especially today’s game, they want to play the way that that you’re talking about. And, but at the same time, they gotta be able to play and take care of the ball and understand what good shots are. And it’s all about building the players, IQ through what you do day in and day out.

[01:01:05] Josh Merkel: Yeah, and we’ll watch it some, a film. So, so I think a big part of our team and awareness is built through those 15 minutes of clips before practice. And then you work to apply it go from theory to practice. When you hit the floor.

[01:01:20] Mike Klinzing: How do you balance out when you’re sharing film with players, how do you balance out showing them things that they did correctly versus things that they did incorrectly?  What’s the balance?

[01:01:29] Josh Merkel: We try to, I mean, try to criticize in private and praise in public as much as you can pulling guys aside for those individual clips, but we’re big on, we’re going to show the defensive crimes a lot of times after games. And, and even in practice, we’ll say, Hey, stop it at the scene of the crime, you know?

So we’ll go back to where Mike B, Josh and Ari, Josh fixed it this time, and then we’re going to play from there again. So yeah, we, we, you got to point that stuff out again, the truth over harmony, Hey, you guys want the harmony or you want the truth? We weren’t very good defensive. Here’s a few clips that we have to be better at that we’re going to address in practice.

And so we get it right. We’re going to keep drilling this stuff, which isn’t going to be the most fun, but once we get it right, then we can move on to more fun things. Kind of that might be one of the things.

[01:02:12] Mike Klinzing: How much film are you watching during the season?

[01:02:16] Josh Merkel: During the season, I’m grinding a lot of films, I would say you know, a couple hours, couple of three hours, depending on the day and then maybe the family responsibilities.

But I’m going to watch probably at least three games of our opponent. Hopefully more and then watching practice of us every single day. So and maybe, maybe February getting away from it a little bit. But that’s, if we’re home in and I feel really good about our approach

[01:02:40] Mike Klinzing: Talking about family, when you started, you mentioned a couple of times, Hey, I’m single. I got all this time. I can, I can do all those things. And then obviously once you have a family things change and, and you, you have responsibilities, not just with your players and your basketball team, but you have responsibilities at home.

So I’m always curious just to talk with coaches about how they. Whether it’s incorporating their family into their program. How you just think about the balance and the rhythm of your year, obviously as a division three head coach, the rules in division three, and the amount of contact that you can have with your players in the off season affords you more of an opportunity to.

Take a deep breath and, and spend more time with your family in the off season than you would be if you were on the 52 week a year plan at the division one level, which we’ve talked to a bunch of coaches about that, whether that’s a positive or negative, but just talk a little bit about balancing out your family responsibilities with your basketball responsibilities.

[01:03:35] Josh Merkel: Yeah. I would say more rhythm than balanced. Like the season has a way different rhythm than the off season. My wife has a stud and you know, I wish she was here so she could hear me bragging on her. I should be able to hear it.

[01:03:48] Mike Klinzing: She’ll be force her to listen to this at some point.

[01:03:50] Josh Merkel: I mean, she, she’s tremendous with three boys and, and really helps.

And then my mother-in-law even moved in the neighborhoods. So she’s been awesome this year and we have a six, a two and a five month old. You know, as you know, as a dad, your time is no longer your own, especially when they’re young, it’s like you’re just meeting their needs. But it’s been awesome.

Our kids love basketball right now. They love going to games. I love bringing having them be around practice and it’s been a joy, like even some of the playoff games and those guys cutting down a net or being in the hotel shoot around. Honestly, our guys love when they’re around because they know coach really can’t lose it on us.

All right. Basins in the back of the film room, we’re going to be okay. In this film session,

there was one that I did lose it and forgot that Mason was back there. And I’m not a big cursor, but I mean, I was going at some guys, but I just remember looking back there and he’s, his eyes were like this, well,

[01:04:48] Mike Klinzing: I never saw this side of dad before I got to look forward to

[01:04:52] Josh Merkel: you never say one word about it, man.

So that was pretty cool. That’s fun.

[01:04:55] Mike Klinzing: That’s good stuff. That is good stuff. All right. Let’s, let’s dive into this season a little bit and talk about, let’s go, let’s go back to the beginning pre season. Last year, it gets cut short because of COVID you guys were probably on track to at least compete for a national championship last year, with the team that you had.

So coming into this year, what was the mindset? Where were you at with your comfort level, with the team where they were just go back to the pre-season? What, what your expectations were, what you thought they were capable of?

[01:05:24] Josh Merkel: Pretty sees. I mean, shoot people, people thought highly of us. We didn’t think that highly of ourselves.

I can tell you, like we finished the year, go back a year before COVID year 28 and two just like Elmhurst. She taught John Bains, that team that we were sweet 16. We had a home game to go to the elite eight and the season was done. That team was, was good. That team was humming. And then here we are 12 and oh, COVID, I don’t know how good we are.

We know we solid because a lot of those guys were back and we certainly got our top four scores back and all that. So we did the same thing. We return our top four scores. We had a veteran group, we knew that to me. The thing that was going to beat us was, could be ourselves. And to me, if, if we weren’t hungry, if we sort of feel in ourselves, then that was going to be a detriment to our growth too.

So we just took a growth mindset into every game. We took a chip, a chip on our shoulder, into every practice I would say you know, just kind of relentless. I’m probably relentless about the standard and about and me, our guys were unbelievable. Let me start with Buzz Anthony, our point guard, I could tell you one quick story.

So he he’s had a pro mindset since his freshman year. Like guys want to be a pro. Then they start working like a pro as a senior. Okay. This guy came in as a freshman and he was a pro he’s got his goals up. He’s got a structure is his workouts are specific. So he would do these Colby workout, six weeks of the preseason.

He gets in there and basically gets three workouts in between two team workouts that we do. We’d live Friday. Then he’d come back and go at 9:00 PM to am. 8:00 AM. And then we play at 9:00 AM. Our, hopefully I explained that well, but first couple of years he’s doing it on his own. Maybe a guy comes in at night.

Maybe he got comes in the morning, but this particular pre-season, you had 11 guys in there. And again, no coaches in the gym. This is not anything that I would put on. Then. He called it the, the Kurt X workouts in honor of a former player and a 11 guys, six weeks, three workouts, 2:00 AM in the gym, working on their own, on their own stuff.

Pretty cool. So to me, when you also have talent and we’re connected and I don’t know how many other people are working like that, we felt like we you know, it’s when you, when you start playing those games and games are tight, I think you earn a level of confidence and preparation that says, you know what, we’re not giving into this thing.

And we’ve done more than maybe this other team.

[01:07:45] Mike Klinzing: Was there a moment during the season, early on midway through where you felt like, man, this little. It’s really come on for these guys. And if things go our way, we’re going to have a shot at winning this whole thing. Was there a moment or was it more just sort of a, a culmination of kind of all the work that that guys had put in that you just said that you just described?

[01:08:09] Josh Merkel: I don’t think there was a moment. I mean, I’m basically going to every game, like, man, if we can come out on top of this game, like we might have the chance to share. I mean, I was probably saying that he was always laughing at me cause I’m like, if we could just get this one,

[01:08:23] Mike Klinzing: There’s a coach’s mindset for you right there,

[01:08:25] Josh Merkel: Yeah. I mean I, I don’t, I even, even with Elmhurst, I wasn’t relaxing. So about one minute to go. You know, looking back is kind of crazy, but that’s just how, I don’t know that that’s how we approached it is basically coach the heck out of every possession and, and play to the standard. And if guys weren’t doing it 38 minutes in, I mean, there’s, there’s a lot of has where I would not look at the scoreboard because I just wanted to be locked in on, on the process and how we were playing and let that score take care of itself.

[01:08:54] Mike Klinzing: All right. So as you get through and you get it and you get through your regular season and you get to the tournament, what’s the, what’s the mindset. What’s the conversation like when you sit down in a locker room or a team meeting with your guys heading into the tournament, is there things that you’ve learned through your career that you share with your guys from a mentality standpoint, from a preparation standpoint, how do you, how do you approach that when you go on into the tournament?

Cause obviously now you’re in a one and done situation. It’s a little bit different than the regular seasons audio approach.

[01:09:27] Josh Merkel: Yeah, our approach was, I think it can be different for every team, but this year seam was fearless was the word. And if you want to take another phrase, trust your training.

Like we’re not going to panic. And if we go down just because the other team played a hell of a game, but just no fear everybody talked about the pressure. Like we felt zero pressure. I felt zero pressure. And maybe it’s because our guys were so good and connected and, and we were a connected group.

So maybe that, that helped maybe I’ll feel some pressure next year. Well we, we, we talked about yeah, fearless mindset is not the absence of fear, but is fearing less and just going for it, like, you know what, we’re not. We’re not going to tiptoe around it, man. We’re going to go. And I think in the scores and our approach reflected a group that was not fearful of a result, they’re not fearful of a loss.

And so that, that, that’s one thing I was proud of the guys for.

[01:10:18] Mike Klinzing: What does that look like during practice? So when you’re talking about that, Hey, we’re going to be fearless. What do you try to, how do you get them to understand what that looks like? And obviously they’ve had a series of games over the course of the season where you can point and look to it.

I’m sure there was something that you talked about throughout the season, but just that. In the practice you’re preparing for your next opponent and the other days, right. Where you have you’re playing on your plan on Friday, then you’re coming back and playing on Saturday where you don’t have much prep time repair for that next opponent.

So what’s the mindset there in terms of making sure that they keep that fearless mentality.

[01:10:53] Josh Merkel: We talked about, we are empowering you. I remember just watching film and saying Hey, Hey, I’m will you are empowered to go after that ball, make this play. What are you, are you worried about getting beat?

Are you worried that your guy was going to get open for a shot? No, you’re empowered this. Guy’s turning his back. Go attack that ball. So let me know. That would be the word that we probably used at time is and try to show him what, what I guess fearlessness looks like. Playing fearless playing confidently, Hey man, you’re a killer.

Let this shot fly. And guys just really they, they were connected to their strengths. I would say self-aware new, new who should be getting most of the shots, but also that if they were open and the ball found them, they were letting that thing fly. Nobody was really afraid of the moment.

And we coached it like w we, we coached the first game of the season, whether we’re up by 30, really the same that we would have national championship game so that when you get in those moments, nothing feels different

[01:11:55] Mike Klinzing: When the buzzer goes off and. You win the championship. What’s the feeling that you get describe it.

Is it sometimes you hear guys say it’s a, it’s a relief that you kind of had this season where, Hey, we finally got it done. I’m I’m relieved. Was it, was it happiness? Was it joy for your guys? Just what, what was going through your mind when the buzzer goes off and, and you know, that the thing that you worked hard for this entire season, that was kind of on your mind that you got there, what did.

[01:12:27] Josh Merkel: Number one, I’m just felt for John Baines and his crew, because I thought it was a hell of a team. And I don’t think the final score reflected how good the were. They were better than that final score. So kind of my heart went out to him because I feel like that could have been us want to shake those guys’ hands, try and remind them how great a season they have.

That was number one, then seeing the joy, actually I saw my players celebrate and then if I could do it over again, I’d get them to maybe shake hands first and then celebrate. That’s hard

[01:12:53] Mike Klinzing: That’s hard though. That’s a hard, that’s a hard position to be in as a coach. Isn’t it? Like, I see that a lot of times in the high school games and stuff and teams win and they’re celebrating and the other team just kind of has to stand there and soak it all in that’s that’s tough for, for kids.

And obviously as coaches too, that’s tough.

[01:13:09] Josh Merkel: I, I don’t, I don’t think John, their head coach felt disrespected by, or any of their players did, and we eventually got over there. But I remember seeing the joy man that the whole. You know, we still have some great pictures of those guys hugging each other at the, on the bench.

That that’s what I’m going to take away is that confetti comes down. It’s a pretty cool thing. Knowing that there wasn’t another game to prepare for that’s the first time I’ve really felt that because 28 and two, and it’s like, all right, well, we gotta go win this thing that everyone says we can, are capable of winning.

And then COVID year. And it’s like, alright, well, we’re going to next year trying to win this thing. So it was you know, it w it, joy, joy was the word, Mike I’ve, I’m probably a younger version of me. Wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it as much. I think COVID has helped me even just control the controllables man be grateful for what you have.

And I was certainly grateful for this group for the opportunity to kind of punch through. You know, for so many guys in our families, it was, it was just really a special thing. And they do a good job there. And in Fort Wayne to making it a big deal CBS, all, all those, all that went into it. It just felt like a really cool thing didn’t feel any different than probably Kansas felt

[01:14:19] Mike Klinzing: Exactly right.  I mean, again, it’s, it’s, you’re, you’re going through the same process and the result that you get at the end and the amount of work that you put in to be able to do it. And then obviously, as you said that with the way that the last, the previous two seasons that ended, it gave you closure on what’s normally would be one season.

It really, it was almost closure on three full seasons are a long time for that delayed gratification to be able to get there. And so now you look at it and you say, okay, I think one of the things that I’ve always found to be interesting in our conversations around the pod is. People always talk about, well we’ve built this thing and then how do we, how do we sustain it?

And obviously your goal is going to be to win a national championship every year. It’s, it’s something that you’re not probably going to be able to do every year. So how do you, how do you define success beyond the scoreboard? And when you think about what’s coming in the next year or two, three years, how do you define sustaining the success that you’ve been able to build to this point beyond the score?

[01:15:26] Josh Merkel: Yeah. I mean, the, the mission you go back to the mission is to develop young men and help them be successful after their, their playing is over. So just enjoying that process of development on and off and all that goes into it, the leadership journey, all those things. For us, we kind of talk about, we want to play as many games as possible, which means advance, advance, advance, and then find a way to win the last game.

And to me to be at our best when our best is needed and be a buzzsaw saw at the end of the year, that’s what we want to be. So the growth mindset, all of those things you can have some losses, you can have some bumps along the road. You probably need those. You know, some people brought up our one loss and it’s like, minute that we weren’t out to have a perfect season like that, that loss helped us.

It propelled us. It showed us that we weren’t where we needed to be. And I’m grateful. I’m glad we didn’t have to have 10 of them there, but maybe that’s what next year will look like. You know, we just don’t know. And I am excited. I’m looking forward to the challenge and winning a different way.

I saw this, John Shier said this about duke. But you know, he says duke is, is you find out how to win. And I like to say, RMC is certainly it finds, it teaches you, it finds ways to win and, and you know, how are we going to do that next year, excited to see what we do.

[01:16:39] Mike Klinzing: We’re coming up close to an hour and a half.

I think we’re, we’re approaching, we’re approaching the midnight hour a year. So I want to wrap it up with one final two-part question. First part, when you look ahead over the next, let’s say three years, what do you see as being the biggest challenge in front of you? And then number two, when you get out of bed every morning, what’s your biggest joy that you get from being the head coach at Randolph-Macon.

So your biggest challenge and your biggest joy.

[01:17:05] Josh Merkel: Biggest challenge. The first thing I thought of is the age of my kids in three years, it’s going to be three, five and nine you’re right,

[01:17:13] Mike Klinzing: man. You’re just, you’re just headed towards being a youth sports parent. We’re gonna, we’re going to, we’re going to recycle this in five years and see what that conversation looks like for sure.

[01:17:21] Josh Merkel: I’m going to have to be picking your brain at that point. So the, I mean, I think the challenge is continuing to get the right guys on the bus, despite this let’s say national championship or you know, we want guys to be choosing us for the right reasons to be choosing us for the work for the, for the competition, for who they can become, but not for the glory, not because we it’s, it’s cool to tell their friends they’re playing for a top ranked team.

We’ll say. So I think that’s going to be the challenge is, is gas, staying hungry, continue to bring a chip. Cause that’s the way to go through life. I think it’s the way to be successful is keep, keep hunting challenges in your life. Meaningful work is going to bring you some fulfillment and some joy.

And then what brings me joy, man, is the relationships just getting closer challenging guys, but, but having them love you or knowing that they’re loved and that also you’re going to be demanding and bring out their best. I will tell you, maybe in closing the best compliment I got came after the game, Mike, until my seniors, they say, come here, coach from one, study something.

And they say, you’re our favorite coach? You’re our least favorite coach at the same time. And then I, okay, come on, explain. Well, we know that you love us, but man, you’re hard to play for man. You point out everything in every film session. It’s not everything, but I do point out a lot. But we wouldn’t have gotten as good as we did playing anywhere else.

And man, that was, that was an awesome for them to have the maturity, to be able to say that too, in the moment, maybe that’s what winning does too, is allow those guys to say what was on their mind. And I love that truth, man, give me that truth over harmony. But isn’t it, isn’t it, even for parents you’re probably the favorite dad and the least favorite dad and that’s, that’s that’s life embracing that.

But that’s what that, that’s what brings me joy is trying to get to that point for every player.

[01:19:10] Mike Klinzing: That’s really cool that they gave you that right after the game, because so often you hear that story five years down the road, or 10 years down the road, a player comes back to you and says, Hey, you really pushed me and got the best out of me, but for them to recognize that in the moment, I’m sure that was just as special of a feeling to put that on top of the national championship.

I mean, I can only imagine the thoughts that were going through your mind as, as they’re saying that to you and how good that felt to, to understand. The things that, that you’ve done, that you feel like you’re, you’re doing in the best interest of players. It’s not often that it gets recognized right in the moment.

Cause we all know it’s tough. You have to be demanding. There’s, there’s a grind to it. There’s, there’s a lot of work that goes into it in order to be successful. And players don’t always recognize that in the moment, it’s more often retrospectively that they can look back and get that realization. So for them to be able to, to share that with you in the moment, I’m sure it was especially, especially gratifying before we get out of here.

Josh, I want to give you a chance, share how people can reach out to you, whether you want to share email, social media, just how people can connect with you and your program. And then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.

[01:20:23] Josh Merkel: Yeah. JoshMerkel@RMC.EDU that’s M E R K E L.

I’ll give my cell. I’m not, I don’t have a great social media presence. I barely check Twitter. So that’s not a good way to reach me anymore, but my cell would be 443 365 3159. And Yeah, I look forward to hearing, Hey anybody that has some feedback or ways for us to be better. And if there’s a player that, that somebody has an uncle in Virginia or Richmond with a player that, that, that should be on our radar, slipped through the cracks it could be an all league stud definitely excited to hear about them.

[01:21:06] Mike Klinzing: Josh, we cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule tonight to jump on and join us a lot of fun, talking basketball with you again, congratulations on the national championship.

And I’m sure you’re going to continue to have success. So to everyone out there, we appreciate you listening and we will catch you on our next episode.  Thanks.