Greg McDermott is convinced the only baggage Patrick Sellers will bring to Creighton will be Samsonite.
McDermott has hired Sellers as an assistant basketball coach. In order to make room for a recruiter with strong ties to the East Coast, McDermott has promoted Steve Merfeld to a newly created post of director of player development.
The 44-year-old Sellers comes to Creighton after two seasons as an assistant at Hofstra, where he landed after being forced to resign in the wake of a 2010 recruiting scandal at Connecticut. Sellers eventually was cleared of all wrongdoing.
“The one thing I was impressed with in talking to people was how Patrick handled a difficult situation at the end of his time at UConn,” McDermott said. “He was exonerated a year later, but everyone said he handled things in the right way.
“He treated people the right way at a tough time in his life.”
McDermott said the fact that Jeff Hathaway, the athletic director at Connecticut who accepted Sellers' resignation, was the same guy who approved his hiring at Hofstra speaks volumes.
“That really tells you something,” McDermott said.
McDermott also received favorable recommendation about Sellers from retired Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma gave Sellers a glowing report, as did other staff members at the school.
“We also talked to a number of AAU and high school coaches along the eastern seaboard,” McDermott said, “and everything we heard was positive.”
Sellers spent his first three seasons at Connecticut (2004-07) as Calhoun's director of basketball operations. He then was an associate coach from 2007 until his resignation.
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He was instrumental in recruiting players such as Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander and Roscoe Smith who helped the Huskies win the 2011 national championship. His primary on-court responsibility was working with Connecticut's frontcourt players, including future NBA players Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien.
Sellers is expected to help increase Creighton's recruiting presence on the East Coast as the Bluejays move to the new Big East.
“We'll get him in here and decide what areas he's most comfortable with,” McDermott said. “He's recruited the East Coast and he's recruited California, too. Recruiting is all about contacts and the relationships you build, and we're going to use his as best we can.”
Sellers played college basketball at Central Connecticut State and also spent time as an assistant there. He also was an assistant at Massachusetts and did some professional coaching in China the season after he left Connecticut.
Sellers was on Mo Cassara's staff at Hofstra the past two seasons. When Cassara was fired after this season, Sellers was named the program's interim head coach. He interviewed for the head coaching job, but when it went to another man, Sellers started searching for a job.
Creighton provides Sellers with a professional change of pace.
“I've been an East Coast guy most of my college coaching career,” Sellers said in a statement. “I'm very excited to get out to the Midwest. I went out there a couple of weeks back and was blown away.
“The facilities and the fan support were unbelievable. It's very exciting to be a part of a program like that.”
Merfeld's new position will allow him to be involved in all aspects of the program except for on-the-court coaching and on-the-road recruiting. He has been a part of McDermott's staff the past three seasons and has 10 years of head coaching experience at Hampton and Evansville.
“Steve is going to be my right-hand man,” McDermott said. “Although he won't be allowed to recruit or have any coaching interaction, he can be involved in helping us prepare and evaluate how we go about things in those two areas.
“I don't see his role changing from what he's been doing. I'm going to lean on him a lot.”
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