Getting to know Steve Mergelsberg

  • Q
  • May 15, 2012 8:24 pm

This is the first of many interviews of the year for Basketball-Connect. We will be featuring players, coaches and agents who are members of the website. Steve Mergelsberg is a well known coach in the USA and is searching to further his resume with a coaching job in the USA or Abroad. With over 25 years of coaching experience now its your turn to get know Coach Steve!


Tell us about yourself?

I was born and raised in Bloomfield, NJ a small town about 15 miles from New York City. I graduated Bloomfield HS and went on to get a BS degree from the University of the State of New York-Regents College, Albany, NY in Psychology. I began my teaching and coaching career at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, NJ. I taught physical education and coached freshman basketball in the early years. I remained teaching for over 25 years and continued to coach on various levels.

How many years have you coached and at what level?

I started out coaching recreation basketball and then coached the freshman team at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark. I moved on to become the assistant varsity boy’s coach at Roselle Catholic HS in north Jersey for 7 years. I then relocated to Las Vegas, NV where I was the assistant varsity coach at Bishop Gorman HS for 2 seasons. We won the Group III Nevada State Championship in 1987-88. I returned to New Jersey after two years in Nevada and took the head coaching position at Paterson Catholic HS, Paterson, NJ. An inner city school in north Jersey. I remained there for 2 years, teaching and coaching. I moved on the the pro level as an assistant coach with the “Jersey Turnpikes” of the United States Basketball League. Called the league of opportunity because the likes of Anthony Mason and Mugsy Bogues played in the league and went on to star in the NBA. The team folded so I moved on the be an assistant with the “Morris Revolution” of the Atlantic Basketball Association. I was an assistant to Jack Martin, who is in the Junior College Hall of Fame for his great career at Morris County College in Randolph, NJ. Finally, I reached the college level in 2002 as I became an assistant at Rutgers University, Newark, NJ a DIII school.

Where have you coached?

As you can see from the above, all over the country!

Have you coached any team internationally?

No, I haven’t had that opportunity yet but I would love to. I like the work ethic of the European players and I am sure it would be a great experience.

Why should a team hire you?

With over 25 years experience on the high school, college and professional levels a team would be getting someone with experience, knowledge and a whole lot of desire!

How would you best describe your coaching philosophy?

Coaching is much more than just following a set of principles or having a well-established program. Coaching is interaction in young people’s lives. The athlete who comes into the weight room is a student, a family member, and a friend to someone. He is the same person in all areas of his life- he has a personality, ideals, character, flaws, and struggles. It is the responsibility of the coach to help his players make the right and mature decisions in all areas of their lives. He must help them develop character, discipline, self-motivation, self-worth, and an excitement for life.

To achieve these objectives, the coach must raise the standards that the player and others around them have set. Then he must help them reach those standards by developing appropriate relationships with them based on respect, caring, and character. When character development is the foundation for your program, athletes will get the most out of their athletic experience. And when that happens, you will also get the most out of your athletes, for this is what champions are made of.

The most successful coaches are not necessarily the ones who win the most games. Coaches who have successful experiences focus on team cohesion. The desire to see the athlete learn and improve his skill is the key to an effective coaching program. I am committed to using all of my knowledge, abilities, and resources to make each player on my team more successful. My focus is to promote an atmosphere of teamwork, mutual respect, and commitment. By achieving this we will be successful, and we will also win.

What are the most memorable moments in your coaching career?

Way back when I was the freshman coach at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ we played Paterson East Side HS in Paterson, NJ and were supposed to blown-out. They had so much more talent than us but we won the game and I will never forget that. I also will remember winning the Nevada State Championship while an assistant at Biship Gorman HS in Las Vegas. That memory will always remain fresh on my mind! When I go back to Vegas for a vacation, I always contact my former players.

What year was your best coaching year and why?

I would say the year we won the Nevada State title. Even though I was an assistant, it was my first season in a new state with a new team. I was responsible for working with the “big men” and I worked my tail off. Our big guys played great all season and that made me feel so proud.

What are your goals as a coach?

Set realistic and reachable goals! A coach seizes upon victories and defeats as teaching moments to build on self-confidence and positive character traits such as discipline, self-motivation, self-worth, and an excitement for life. The desire to see the athlete learn and effectively improve his skill is key to an effective coaching program. Focus on effort rather than outcome. Setstandards of continuous learning and improvement for the athletes.

Encourage and inspire the athletes, regardless of their skill levels, to strive to get better without threatening them through fear, intimidation, or shame. Dev elop appropriate relationships with the players based on respect, caring, and character.


What type of players do you look for when building your team?

I have always played with the “cards I was dealt”! Meaning that I would adjust my offenses/defenses to the type of talent that I would have for that season. I try to make use of size, quickness, ability and intelligence. What will work with one group of players, may not work for another, so you adjust.

Who is your favorite coach of all times?

Red Holzman, the former New York Knick coach who won NBA championships in 1970 and 1973. With players like Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Jerry Lucas, etc. They played a team game like no other seen in the NBA since. A moving, cutting, passing offense with stressing moving without the ball. An up tempo Princeton style offense made famous by Pete Carril. It was a thing of beauty to watch as a coach. I also love Jerry Tarkanian, former UNLV coach. When I lived in Las Vegas he was recruiting a few of out players and I had the opportunity to chat with him. He was kind enough to teach me the “Amoeba” defense he made famous against Duke in the 1990 NCAA Championship game.

Thank you Steve!

Steve Mergelsberg has over 25 years coaching experience on the high school, college and professional levels and is looking for a position in the US or overseas. Having written and published numerous articles on the Amoeba Defense and Triangle Offense in Winning Hoops, BasketballSense and Coach & Athletic Director magazines, Steve is known worldwide.

If you would like to be interviewed please contact us today!

1 Comment
  1. Q says:
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    thanks for this!

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