The Hammel Era
Bert Hammel enters his 36th season on the sidelines at Merrimack College in 2015-16 with a career mark of 514-479 and an all-time winning percentage of .517. He ranks 13th in career coaching victories among active coaches at the Division II level. He currently is tied for 37th all-time in Division II.
In 2014-15, Hammel put together another phenomenal coaching job. He reached a personal milestone as he collected his 500th career win on December 21 against Bloomfield. Hammel became the 46th coach in Division II history to reach 500 wins.
On the court, the Warriors overcame an 0-6 start to conference play to qualify for the NE-10 Tournament as the 5th seed from the Northeast Division. Merrimack won its first postseason game in five years with a First Round victory over the New Haven Chargers. Hammel coached junior guard Gelvis Solano to an all-conference first team selection as the junior led the team in scoring. Solano is currently 12th all-time in scoring (1,560 points) and is on pace to score over 2,000 points.
Under Hammel’s guidance in 2013-14, Merrimack started the year an exciting four-game winning streak and opened eyes with an impressive win over reining conference champion Southern New Hampshire. For Hammel’s Warriors, January and February were not as kind as the opening two months were, but the team close out the campaign on a high note, upending NE-10 Tournament qualifier Saint Michael’s on Senior Night to conclude the year.
Hammel once again transcended his coaching brilliance in the 2012-13 season. While finishing with an overall record under .500, it was the fact that the longtime Warrior leader took an extremely young squad with plenty of question marks and molded it, as the season progressed, into a potential contender that showed flashes of brilliance that stood out by season's end.
Picked dead last in the 16-team NE-10 Preseason Coaches Poll, Hammel and his young team did not get discouraged after struggling from the onset. Sitting at just 2-6 heading into December, Hammel was instrumental in guiding his team all the way back to a .500 mark. If not for a few heartbreaking defeats that come with the territory of commandeering such a young team, Merrimack could have made noise in the NE-10 Championships. Despite missing the 10-team tournament by a game, Merrimack ended the year on a high note, upsetting eventual East Regional Champion Franklin Pierce in the final regular season game of 2012-13.
The previous year, Hammel helped the Warriors post a winning season and clinch the program's 10th consecutive playoff berth, finishing 15-12 overall with a 12-10 inside the NE-10. After going 5-7 in the months of December and January combined, Hammel willed the Warriors to five consecutive victories to start February thanks in part to the stellar senior class that became just the second in program history to boast three 1,000-point scorers. Roland Davis, Wayne Mack and Aaron Strothers all became the 37th, 38th and 39th members of the prestigious millenium club during the course of the 2011-12 campaign.
Prior to the start of the season, Merrimack renamed its home court in honor of Hammel, whose service to both the program and to the College extends more than three decades. The Warriors' hardwood was emblazoned with its new name, Bert Hammel Court, on Oct. 22 as part of a special ceremony attended by friends, family and alumni.
Hammel helped the Warriors reach their third-straight NCAA appearance in 2009-10, reaching the NCAA Regional Semifinals thanks to the efforts of Cousy Award Finalist and All-American Darren Duncan, who graduated as the program's all-time leader in assists. Despite missing the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11, Hammel produced another All-American and 2,000 point scorer in Dee Mency, as well.
In 2008-09, Hammel led his Warriors to the program's eighth NCAA tournament and sixth appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. With the program’s second-straight 20-win season of the 21st century in 2009-10, the Warriors rattled off 11 consecutive victories during the year under Hammel. Five Warriors averaged double-figure scoring for a team that was tops in the Northeast-10 Conference in points per game (77.8), while boasting the league’s second-highest turnover margin (+3.70).
In 2008-09, Merrimack started the year an incredible 9-1, marking the best 10-game start for a Hammel-led team. Their 20 wins before the tournament was the first time it was achieved since the 1998-99 campaign.
A pair of Hammel's recruits (Duncan and Mency) were named to the Northeast-10 All-Conference team in the spring of 2010. Duncan, also a Bob Cousy Award finalist, was named to the First Team, while Mency was tabbed to the Second Team. Both graduated with 2000 career points and were All-Americans.
In 2000, the Warriors captured both the Northeast-10 regular season and tournament crowns before falling in the regional semifinals. The Hammel-led Warriors also punched tickets to the Big Dance in 1991 and 1992.
Twenty-nine Merrimack players have garnered Northeast-10 All-Conference honors under Hammel, including First Team selections Reggie Carter (1999-00), Steve Curran (1991-92), Darren Duncan (2007-08, 08-09, 09-10), Tim Hart (1985-86), Wayne Mack (2011-12), Darin Mency, (2010-11) and Paul Neal (1988-89, 89-90, 90-91). Neal was also named Northeast-10 Player of the Year in 1991 and was inducted into the Merrimack Hall of Fame in 2004. Carter earned Northeast-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2000, as well.
At the conclusion of the 1982-83 seasons, Joe Dickson was named both All-America and Academic All-America and is No. 2 in scoring in school history with 2,130 points.
In 1986-87, Steve Scott was named Northeast-8 Rookie of the Year and, more recently, Darren Duncan and Dee Mency took home Rookie of the Year honors in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Hammel has also brought Merrimack two Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships. In 1997-98, the No. 4 seed Warriors downed Saint Michael’s College in the finals. The following year, Merrimack earned the top seed in the tournament and knocked off New Jersey Tech, 96-82.
Hammel has developed many outstanding guards during his time in North Andover. He coached Gary Duda (1989-92), who earned Academic All-American honors and still ranks among the top three-point shooters in Division II history, as well as Daren Alix, who was recognized as one of the premier three-point shooters in Division II in 1996. In 1999-00, Shawn Brown led the nation in assists amongst Division II players while Bobby Murgo finished his career with over 600 dimes.
Hammel has developed and helped 15 of his former players move into coaching careers of their own including: Bill Herrion (’81, head coach University of New Hampshire), Chris Mohr (’97, assistant and University of New Hampshire), Greg Herenda (’83, head coach UMass Lowell), Steve Curren (’92, assistant coach at St. Bonaventure University), Tom Herrion (’89, head coach at Marshall University), and Micky Burtnyk (’08) who returned to Merrimack as an assistant coach in 2009.
Others have taken on coaching roles at the high school level, including Tom Sipsey (’07, Whittier Tech), Paul Neal ('91, Lawrence High School), Dave Keefe ('84, Trinity High School in Manchester, NH), Rob Pavinelli ('85, St. Dominic, Long Island, NY), Rich Barden ('01, Methuen High School), Jeff Caron ('99, Athletic Director at Dartmouth High School), John McVeigh ('98, Brooks School), and Larry Merritt (96). Former manager Peter Paladino (86) is the Director of Athletics at Central Catholic High School.
During Hammel’s time at Merrimack, he has also helped make Warrior basketball a fixture in the community. In addition to serving as the camp director for Merrimack’s basketball camps, he also developed and maintains the Academic Basketball Awareness (ABA) Camp in conjunction with the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club. Each summer, campers are invited to play basketball and study for one week.
Hammel has twice been honored by the City of Lawrence for his work with the Boys and Girls Club, and in 2000 received the UMass Amherst Sports Management Program Service Beyond Recognition Award for founding and coordinating the ABA Camp. Hammel also instituted the ‘Read with the Warriors’ program in which Merrimack players travel to elementary schools in the Merrimack Valley to help youngsters strengthen their reading skills.
His players are also regulars at the Boys and Girls Club, volunteering their time to help with the development of area youth. Hammel and the Warriors also make special days more meaningful for the boys club children by offering their time at the Boys and Girls Club Halloween and Christmas Parties as well as other special club events.
“What Bert does comes right from his heart,” said Steve Kelly, associate director of the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club. “Most importantly, he believes that each of our kids is a diamond in the rough who wants to be a polished gem. Bert teaches us that greatness is not something inherent, but something to be cultivated and encouraged. He teaches us that our goals – no matter what they may be – are determined by our desire, not our background – and that in turn determines our success. Bert makes us believe that nothing is impossible if we are willing to pay the price. He is a real life hero to so many of the kids of the LBGC.”
Hammel was the recipient of the 2007 Literacy Champion Award presented by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). The award is given to someone who has used the game of basketball, his program, and his players to promote the importance of reading, writing, and technological skills to children. The award recognizes the ongoing selfless efforts in bringing the importance of enhanced literacy skills through visits to schools, inviting students to their campuses, and acquiring funding to support their projects of promoting reading and literature.
Hammel is a two-time Paul Schoenfeld Sportsmanship Award, receiving the honor in 1996-97 and 2000-01. The award is given annually to one of over 200 schools in the New England Region which best epitomizes character, ethics and integrity in the game of basketball.
In 1974, Hammel joined the men’s basketball program as an assistant coach following a his college playing days at Bentley College. Hammel learned his coaching skills from then head coach Frank Monahan for five seasons, which included NCAA tourney bids in 1977 and 1978.
Hammel attended Bentley College ('73) where he became a three-year starter for the Falcons and scored 1,209 career points (15.3 per game). As a senior, Hammel served as co-captain and was named the Falcons Most Valuable Player. For his efforts, Hammel was selected to the Division II All-New England squad and still ranks among the leaders in scoring and rebounding at Bentley. In 1973, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
In 1979, Hammel left Merrimack to become the chief scout for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association. One year later the Merrimack head coaching position became available and Hammel was named the seventh coach in Merrimack men’s basketball history.
Bert and his wife, Jill, reside in Methuen, Mass. with their three children – Alexandria (22), Lucas (20) and Cooper (18).