East Lansing — Michigan State women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant has taken a medical leave of absence, the school announced on Tuesday.
Associate head coach Amaka Agugua will serve as interim head coach.
Merchant collapsed during a home game on Jan. 1 and was taken to a hospital in Lansing for test. She missed just one game before returning to the bench.
On Saturday, Michigan State played at Rutgers and Merchant remained in New Jersey to undergo more testing at a local hospital after experiencing similar symptoms that she felt during a Jan. 1 home game.
A time frame for her return has yet to be determined. Michigan State lost at Northwestern on Tuesday night, 76-65.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told WLNS TV in Lansing it was his decision to have Merchant take some time off.
“I think she’s in a good place with the whole thing,” Hollis told Fred Huemann of WLNS. “I think anytime this happens sometimes we have a tendency to put people in this position that they are resistant to health challenges and that’s not the case. As a leader, whether it’s President (Lou Anna) Simon or myself, it’s our role to make sure the 15 kids on that team have the great leadership, which Suzy has delivered.”
Hollis dealt with a similar issue in 2010 when football coach Mark Dantonio took a leave after suffering a heart attack following a win over Notre Dame. He returned later that season and led the Spartans to a Big Ten championship.
“I’ve got to make sure that Suzy’s healthy,” Hollis said. “Like I said with Coach D, I want her here for the long haul and that’s our intent. Want to make sure she’s in a good place. We think she is but when she gets back here we’ll let the doctors do their job and I’ll do mine and she’ll do hers.”
Merchant met with the media last week and admitted she was open to making changes in her daily routine even as there was still some question as to why she had the issue the first time.
“This is how I’ve always done it,” Merchant said. “I guess I have to re-evaluate and do a better job of taking care of myself I guess. Twenty-three years as a head coach just catching up with me I guess. I really don’t know what happened. Still trying to figure it out. Everybody tells me I need to eat more, stay hydrated more, I need to sleep more. But that really doesn’t always coincide with coaching. So,I have to make a concerted effort to do a better job that way for sure.”
The Spartans lost their first game under Agugua's current tenure, falling at Northwestern 76-65 Tuesday night.
Michigan State (13-6, 3-3 Big Ten) fell behind 20-10 after one quarter, then rallied to trail just 37-36 at halftime before Northwestern (15-4, 4-2) took control in the second half.
Tori Jankoska scored 25 and Branndais Agee had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans.