Steve Merfeld gives Bradley the unique distinction of two staff members who boast NCAA Tournament victories as a head coach. Now in his third year as an assistant for the Braves, Merfeld boasts 23 years of NCAA Division I basketball coaching experience, including 10 seasons as a head coach: at Hampton from 1997-02 and at Bradley's Missouri Valley Conference rival Evansville from 2002-07.
In his 10 years as a college head coach, Merfeld collected 144 victories, two regular-season conference championships, two conference tournament titles and two NCAA Tournament appearances. That first postseason appearance in 2001 led to one of the signature moments in NCAA Tournament history as the video of his players lifting him up in celebration following No. 15 seed Hampton's upset of No. 2 seed Iowa State in the 2001 tourney remains a popular March Madness clip.
Merfeld led Hampton to a winning record in four of his five years, finishing with a 90-57 (.612) record that was capped by back-to-back sweeps of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles in 2001 and 2002. After Hampton became just the fourth No. 15 seed to win a NCAA Tournament game in 2001, Merfeld's Pirates became the first-ever 15-seed winner to return to the NCAA Tournament the following season. In his final season at Hampton, Merfeld led the 2001-02 Pirates to a school-record 26 wins, although one of the team's seven losses was an 87-84, double-overtime setback to Bradley Dec. 21, 2001 at Carver Arena. Merfeld was rewarded for his efforts in returning Hampton to the Big Dance by being named the 2002 College Hoops Insider Mid-Major Coach of the Year.
Merfeld replaced longtime Evansville head coach Jim Crews in 2002 and directed the Purple Aces to a 54-91 record in five seasons, including a 4-6 mark against Bradley, and his Evansville teams collected 11 victories against postseason squads (7 NCAA, 4 NIT). In addition to four All-Missouri Valley Conference players, he coached two-time Academic All-American Clint Cuffle (2003, 2004) and a trio of 1,000-point scorers on his 2006-07 squad.
Since joining the Bradley coaching staff in 2007, Merfeld has helped the Braves to a pair of 21-win seasons, including seven postseason victories that have helped Bradley claim a pair of tournament runner-up finishes.
A 1984 graduate of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Merfeld was a 10-year assistant for current George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga at Bowling Green prior to joining the Hampton staff as an assistant in 1996. During his time with the Falcons, Merfeld established himself as a highly-regarded recruiter and is credited with signing Antonio Daniels, the fourth pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. He also landed three Mid-American Conference Rookies of the Year in a five-year span, including Daniels and Anthony Stacey, both of whom went on to be named the league's Player of the Year in 1997 and 2000, respectively.
When he joined the Bradley staff in 2007, Merfeld became the first Valley head coach to assume an assistant position within the league since Gary Garner joined the Tulsa staff for the 1988-89 season following a seven-year run as the head coach at Drake from 1981 through 1988. After one season at Tulsa, Garner took over as the head coach at Southeast Missouri State in 1989 and directed the Ohio Valley Conference program for nine years.
Merfeld and his wife, Mary Jo, reside in Peoria with their 10-year-old daughter Lauren and eight-year-old son Andrew.