Hoffman named coach of Mercer Bears

Perhaps it was just a matter of time.

Bob Hoffman has been part of the Crimson Storm, been a Bison (twice), a Bronc, a Sooner, an Aero and a Viper.

He took on the connection to another mascot today when he was introduced as the new men's head basketball coach at Mercer.

"You will like to know that from his very first days, his nickname is 'Bear,' Hoffman said of his 12 year old son Grant. "So he's excited about us being Bears. And my wife's favorite collectible item has always been the Boyd's collection.. So we have lots of bears already around our house."

Hoffman was introduced this morning at a press conference as the new men’s head basketball coach at Mercer, replacing Mark Slonaker, whose contract wasn’t renewed after 11 seasons.

Nearly the entire athletics department was part of the crowd of 100 or so faculty, staff, students and boosters on hand in the President’s Dining Room inside the University Center for the announcement made by athletics director Bobby Pope.

"He has been on our radar from day one," Pope said. "I think he's a perfect fit for Mercer University." The hiring matches Hoffman with Mercer president William Underwood. Both graduated from Oklahoma Baptist where Hoffman was a standout player in the late 1970s. The two have family members who know each other, but they were strangers up until not long ago.

"We didn't actually ever meet until two weeks ago," said Hoffman, who graduated in the spring of 1979, before Underwood arrived that fall. "We didn't know each other at all. Family members of his and mind knew each other."

Hoffman, who has a bachelor's and masters degree, met with the team earlier this morning and there was a chance he would get in the gym with them before the day was done. He said he planned to remain in town until next week to meet with players, recruit, and talk with potential assistants, including current Mercer assistant Travis Williams.

The search started on Feb. 24 when Slonaker was told his contract would not be renewed. Pope said the school received about 100 applicants and whittled them down.

Hoffman interviewed three weeks and a day before the announcement.

A search committee of 10, ranging from trustees, boosters, alumni and boosters was part of the process.

"I know they're all committed to making basketball here at Mercer an amazing thing," Hoffmann said of the administration. "I'm ready to get on through the press conference and get to recruiting and get guys in the gym. There's great days ahead for this university and men's basketball program."

Hoffman has a career record of 400-171 as a head coach at Southern Nazarene (women), Oklahoma Baptist and Texas Pan-American.

He has had four 30-win seasons at OBU and won the national NAIA title at Southern Nazarene, and 13 20-win seasons on the college and pro (American Basketball Association and NBDL) level.

Hoffman was an assistant at Oklahoma for two years, and head coach in the American Basketball Association and National Basketball Association's developmental league for nearly a season each. He resigned his position in the NBDL around noon on Wednesday.

"After we got the call, we were on a plane about three and a half hours later," Hoffman said. "I forgot my tie."

After the press conference, Hoffman greeted a couple dozen of his new colleagues, sat down for a chat, and then started an afternoon of the unknown.

"I've got to find some iced tea, I'm gonna tell you that right now," the 6-foot-5 coach said with a laugh. "I haven't eaten since (Wednesday) night. As you can tell by my size, I enjoy my lunch. But I need some iced tea."