Detroit Mercy men’s basketball ushers in new era

The University of Detroit Mercy hosted a press conference and meet and greet with new men’s basketball head coach Mark Montgomery, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at Calihan Hall in Detroit.

The harsh Detroit winter felt as if it was in the rear-view mirror the morning of April 10. The air in Calihan Hall was different, as it was filled with excitement. Detroit Mercy was ready to introduce its next men’s basketball coach.  

After an extensive search of over 60 candidates, Detroit Mercy men’s basketball officially named Mark Montgomery as its 23rd head men’s basketball coach, and it didn’t have to look far to find him.  

“I would like to thank President Taylor, Robert Vowels and everyone on the search committee for giving me this opportunity to be the new head coach at University of Detroit Mercy,” Montgomery said at the time of the hiring. “Growing up in the area, you heard about the history of the University, the great players, the atmosphere and historic Calihan Hall. Those teams were nationally known, and they played the best and beat the best. I am so honored and humbled to lead the program back to where it was.” 

Montgomery, a metro Detroit product of Aquinas High School, was a four-year player at Michigan State, playing 126 games for the Spartans before a short pro career. He followed that with 17 seasons as an assistant between his alma mater and Central Michigan, as well as a 10-year stint as the head coach at Northern Illinois.  

While his stint at NIU had only two winning seasons and one post-season appearance (the now defunct Vegas 16), it is considered an extremely tough job to win at.    

The Titans don’t have a football program, not since 1964 anyway, so Montgomery will have great resources at his disposal to try to revive a historic program that just had its worst season in school history. 

“To all the fans, alums, former and current student-athletes and the Detroit community, know that I am ready to lead this program and make everyone proud to be a Titan,” Montgomery said at the time of the hiring. “We will fight and compete, and I expect that my players and staff will embrace the hard work and commitment it takes to win. When we do, we will be proud that all of us are in this together as one Titan family.” 

 President Donald Taylor, a sports fan, expressed his support at “Coach Monty’s” introduction telling the buzzing spectators in the old barn off 6 Mile that “Monty is the right person at the right time” and that there is “so much excitement around the program.”  

Support from administration is the first step for the 54-year-old coach, who will have to now (along with Taylor) seek donor support and close the gap between Detroit Mercy and its extensive donor potential in an era of college sports where that matters more than ever.  

“After spending time with Mark and hearing his vision, we are confident that Coach Montgomery will bring our men’s basketball program back to the national stage,” Taylor said at the time of the hiring. “His experience, approach to strategy and proven success building winning programs and recruiting the top talent in the state of Michigan and beyond are just a few of the numerous reasons he emerged as the leading candidate.” 

Montgomery has his work cut out for him in the Horizon League, a conference he came to learn during a three-month stint on Mike Davis’s UDM staff in the 2020-21 season (the program’s last winning season and only under Davis), after being let go by NIU mid-season. The league is very similar to what it was then, something that gave Athletic Director Robert Vowels Jr. confidence in Montgomery’s ability to bring the Titans back to the top of it.  

The roster he’ll have on the floor is up in the air but expect guard Mak Manciel (38% from 3 on 75 attempts in the last 15 games) and forward Emmanuel Kuac (40% eFG on the season, including two games with 4 threes made and 5+ rebounds) to potentially break out and give Montgomery veteran presence.  

While a lot of the team’s youth is still up in the air, especially with Jayden Stone and Marcus Tankersley in the transfer portal, the Titans secured their first recruit in 6-foot-6 high schooler Nate Johnson from Grand Rapids.  

Things are looking up for the Titans program, one that would do anything for another March Madness appearance.