Scott Merchant just couldn’t stay away.
A product of Birmingham Brother Rice and a former head coach at U-D Jesuit, Merchant is coming back to the Detroit Catholic League as the head coach at Warren De La Salle.
“I’m a Catholic League guy,’’ Merchant said. “It’s a special situation when you can not only combine strong athletics and strong academics, but when you can add in that faith component and talk about God and religion and tie it all together with that in an all-male atmosphere.’’
Merchant replaces Paul Verska, who retired. Under Verska, the Pilots won the 2014 Division 2 state championship.
For the last seven years, Merchant has been the head coach at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, guiding the Big Reds to five state playoffs appearances, including the last four in a row.
“I have nothing but positive things to say about Chippewa,’’ he said. “This wasn’t about anything Chippewa did wrong. It’s just that it’s not a Catholic school and that’s the difference. I think we’ve done some good things and I think our program is in really good shape and it will continue to be.’’
A graduate of Brother Rice, Merchant began his coaching career at Albion College, his alma mater, and helped the late Pete Schmidt guide the Britons to the 1994 Division III national championship.
“I had a pretty good run at Albion wearing purple and gold,’’ Merchant said. “So I can bust out some old Albion Britton gear and hopefully we can do as well we did when I was there with Coach Schmidt.’’
After leaving Albion, Merchant took over a U-D Jesuit program that had eight consecutive losing seasons and had never made the state playoffs. In his second year the Cubs advanced to the state semifinals and then did it again two season later.
He left U-D following the 2007 season and assisted at Brother Rice for three seasons before taking over at Chippewa Valley.
Despite his success at Chippewa Valley, the allure of De La Salle and the Catholic League was too much for Merchant to ignore.
“It’s almost like when you choose a college because you’re choosing to go there and the sacrifices that it takes to go there,’’ he said. “I think that’s unique when you put all those things together. And from a football standpoint, it’s the best or one of the best leagues in the entire state.’’
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.