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Last week, the Mercer Bears fired their head coach, Mark Sloanker, after 11 years of service at the Macon, Georgia school. Mercer is a Baptist school about 90 minutes away from Atlanta, has one of the smallest student bodies for a Division 1A program.
This afternoon, the Slonaker era came to a somewhat merciful end as his Bears lost to Jacksonville 65-57 in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Basketball Tournament at Lipscomb University's Allen Arena. The team ended the regular season on a four-game losing streak. Slonaker finished with a 127-188 mark at Mercer, who hasn't had a player go to the NBA since Sam Mitchell, who played for the Minnesota Timberwolves and is now head coach for the Toronto Raptors.
Maybe Mercer should rethink being in Division 1. After all, their student base (undergraduate) is quite small and the only other celebrity to come from that school is Nancy Grace. Yes, that Nancy Grace. They need to find a coach that will suit their needs and soon. Recruiting time will be on the Bears faster than honey. The athletic program, while it does not have a football program, did send a player to the NFL, TE Wesley Duke, who was signed by Denver in the 2005 season and was released in June of 2006.
Mercer's one bright spot during the Slonaker era was the 2002-03 season, where the team went 23-6. The team won the Atlantic Sun regular season championship with a 14-2 conference record and made school history for number of wins (23); Mercer won 22 games in 1923-24 and 1984-85. There was one bright spot for the Bears this season, receiving national attention in November 2007 when it defeated Southern California, which was ranked 18th in the nation at the time of the game by a 96-81 score.
The school that had Playboy visit this campus in 1986 needs a new leader. If he's half as good as Mark Slonaker, they could advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since they lost to John Salley's and Mark Prifce's Georgia Tech team in Atlanta in 1985.
Mark Slonaker will resurface. I go to the same church as he does when I go back home to Macon (St. Joseph's Catholic) and I emailed him that there may be an opening in Bloomington. I hope he takes it. Good luck, Mark.