The Bob Hoffman era of Mercer basketball officially began on March 27, 2008, thus beginning the most successful period in program history.
The 2013 and 2014 Atlantic Sun Coach of the year has amassed an impressive 164-113 record in eight seasons with Mercer, most recently recording a 19-15 record that propelled the Bears to their fifth straight postseason appearance with a bid to the CIT. A season prior, Hoffman became the first coach in NCAA history to record a win in all four postseason tournaments (NCAA, NIT, CBI, CIT) in a four-year span following a 72-70 win over Stony Brook in the 2015 CBI opening round.
Hoffman guided Mercer to its most memorable run during the 2013-14 season, leading the Bears back to the promised land of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 29 seasons. Not satisfied with simply appearing in the Big Dance, Hoffman guided his senior-laden squad to an upset of the USA Today/AP poll’s No. 6 ranked Duke Blue Devils in the Midwest Region’s 14-3 matchup - leaving the Bears just 40 minutes short of a Sweet 16 appearance.
Mercer’s win over Duke underscored Hoffman’s penchant for big game victories. Since arriving in Macon, Hoffman has led the Bears to nine high-major wins against the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Seton Hall.
Mercer’s first tournament victory in program history vaulted the Bears into the national spotlight, gaining unprecedented media exposure for the university. Hoffman’s triumph was the team’s 27th win of the season – equaling his own school record for single-season wins set by the 2011-12 edition of the squad.
In addition to earning the league’s Coach of the Year honor for the second-straight season, Hoffman took home the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s John Lotz “Barnabas” Award and the Atlanta Tipoff club’s Georgia Coach of the Year distinction in 2014.
Hoffman has amassed more wins (164) in his eight seasons than has previously been achieved during any eight-year span in program history. His efforts have helped raise banners for the 2012 CollegeInsider.com Tournament Championship, 2013 Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championship, 2013 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Round of 16, 2014 Atlantic Sun Regular Season Co-Championship, 2014 Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship and 2014 NCAA Tournament Round of 32.
In the 2012-13 season, Hoffman’s Bears captured the team’s first outright conference regular season championship and made the program’s first appearance in the NIT.
No stranger to the big stage, Hoffman lifted the Bears to a 75-67 NIT win at Tennessee, marking the team’s 24th victory of the year and Hoffman’s 499th as a collegiate head coach. When the season concluded five days later, Hoffman had closed the books on the school’s first back-to-back 20-win seasons in over 100 years of basketball.
The 2011-12 season saw Mercer smash a bevy of longstanding school records, including most wins in a season (27) and points scored (2,589) in the midst of an unprecedented postseason run. When the dust cleared, Hoffman’s squad stood alone as winners of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, with possession of the first postseason tournament trophy in the history of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
A native of Oklahoma City, Okla., Hoffman has been successful at all levels, boasting a proven track record from high school through the professional ranks. His overall record as a head coach at the collegiate level is 564-283.
The 2010-11 Bears reached the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament for a third-consecutive year and produced many memorable moments along the way. The team went 15-18 overall and11-9 in A-Sun play, earning the No. 5 seed in the league playoff despite losing two key seniors mid-season. Mercer advanced to the semifinals before being knocked out by eventual champion Belmont in a nail biter. Senior Brian Mills was named first team All-A-Sun, while point guard Langston Hall was named to the All-Freshman squad.
Hoffman’s 2009-10 team advanced to the title game of the Atlantic Sun Conference championships after downing Belmont and Jacksonville in the quarter and semifinal rounds. That year, Mercer garnered two All-A-Sun and two All-Region honors, while also having senior Daniel Emerson honored as the state of Georgia men’s college basketball “Player of the Year” by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Additionally, senior James Florence became the Bears’ all-time leading scorer midway through the season. The team finished 16-17 overall and was 10-10 in the A-Sun.
He guided the 2008-09 Bears to a 17-15 overall record and 11-9 in Atlantic Sun Conference (A-Sun) play. It was the Bears’ most wins since the 2002-03 season and their first winning mark in conference play since 2004-05.
Hoffman came to the Bears after serving as head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, a NBA Developmental League franchise, and guided the American Basketball Association’s Arkansas Aeros to a 25-2 record in 2006-07. The Aeros led the league in scoring, averaging 133 points per game in Hoffman’s up-tempo style of basketball.
Prior to coaching the Aeros, Hoffman served for two years as an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma, where the Sooners recruited a class ranked in the top five nationally. Hoffman helped guide the Sooners to the first Big 12 championship in school history en route to a two-year record of 45-17 and back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
He brings a wealth of additional experience to the position, having served as head coach at the University of Texas Pan American from 1999-2004, compiling a 69-76 record at the NCAA Division I school. The highlight of Hoffman’s stint with the Broncs was a 21-9 record during the 2001-02 season.
Hoffman guided UTPA to 12 wins in his first season, which was more than the previous three seasons combined, and posted the school’s best record since the 1993-94 campaign. In 2001-2002, Texas Pan-Am had its first winning season since 1993-94, earned their first tournament victory since 1989-90, and recorded the most home wins in eight seasons. The Broncs were rated for the first time ever in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll and Hoffman earned National Independent Coach of the Year honors by CollegeInsider.com.
Challenges are nothing new to him as he turned programs around at Southern Nazarene and Oklahoma Baptist. As the head women’s basketball coach at Southern Nazarene, Hoffman took a team that had never posted a winning season and won the 1989 NAIA National Championship in just his second season with the team. In three seasons at the helm of the Crimson Storm, he compiled an 88-16 record and was named Sooner Athletic Conference, District 9 and NAIA Coach of the Year.
Building on his success at Southern Nazarene, Hoffman took the reins of the men’s program at his alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist, in 1990 and three seasons later guided the Bison to a 34-4 record and berth in the NAIA national championship game. Hoffman was named National Coach of the Year by Basketball Times and also earned Sooner Athletic Conference and District 9 Coach of the Year honors for his efforts. He went on to a record of 243-78 and a winning percentage of .757 in nine seasons at OBU, earning six trips to the NAIA Tournament and making two trips to the championship contest.
He coached 10 All-Americans and 21 All-Conference selections during his tenure with the Bison. Hoffman was named Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times. During his nine years at OBU, Hoffman’s teams averaged more than 90 points per game and led the NAIA in field goal percentage seven times. His commitment to academics is just as strong, boasting a player graduation rate of 82 percent.
A standout guard and forward and a 1979 graduate of Oklahoma Baptist, Hoffman is one of just 30 players to score at least 1,000 points in his OBU career.
Hoffman has been married for 36 years to the former Kelli Lumry. The couple has a teenage son, Grant.
The Hoffman Era
2015-16: 19-15 (8-10 SoCon)
2014-15: 19-16 (12-6 SoCon)
2013-14: 27-9 (14-4 A-Sun)
2012-13: 24-12 (14-4 A-Sun)
2011-12: 27-11 (13-5 A-Sun)
2010-11: 15-18 (11-9 A-Sun)
2009-10: 16-17 (10-10 A-Sun)
2008-09: 17-15 (11-9 A-Sun)
Overall: 145-98 (71-43 Conference)
Mercer 72, Stony Brook 70 – March 18, 2015 – CBI First Round
Mercer 78, Duke 71 – March 21, 2014 – NCAA Second Round
Mercer 75, Tennessee 67 – March 20, 2013 – NIT First Round
Dale Layer was added to the Mercer coaching staff in 2017, bringing over three decades of coaching experience.
“I am so excited to be able to add Dale to our coaching staff,” said Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman. ‘His coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level and at the professional level will add value to our staff and our student-athletes. Dale is a class act who strives to improve those around him and I am confident his understanding of the game and his ability to develop student-athletes will make him a great addition to our basketball family.”
He spent this past season as an assistant coach with the Greensboro Swarm of the NBA’s Developmental League where he assisted in the development of Mike Tobey, the organization’s first Gatorade Call-up to the Charlotte Hornets.
Layer joined the Swarm after six seasons as head coach at Liberty. In his time there he led the Flames to a Big South Tournament Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2013, set a school record for conference wins in a season (13) during the 2011 season.
Layer’s head coaching tenure at Liberty was his second stint with the school after serving as an assistant coach with a season as an assistant at Marquette sandwiched in between. At Marquette, he helped the Golden Eagles reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament and a 24-9 mark, raking as high as eighth in the country at one point that season.
In his first stint at Liberty, he assisted in signing a recruiting class ranked 48th in the nation which included current Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry.
Layer made his first trip to Lynchburg following seven years as head coach at Colorado State where he led the Rams to 103 wins and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2003 off the heels of the program’s Mountain West Conference Tournament title, the first NCAA berth for the school in 13 years.
Layer took the reigns over in Fort Collins, Colorado after a few seasons as an assistant coach with the Rams, helping guide the team to two top-25 wins in 1998 over UCLA and Utah followed by an NIT appearance in 1999.
Layer made the trip to Colorado after nine years as head coach and athletic director at Queens University in Charlotte. After starting the program following the university’s transition to a co-ed school in 1988, he led the royals to eight winning seasons in his nine years with over 165 wins and a pair of NCAA Division II Tournament appearances to go along with two conference tournament titles.
Layer’s coaching career began as an assistant at his alma mater, Eckerd College, in 1980 for a pair of seasons before spending a couple years as a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky before returning to Eckerd for five more seasons.
Layer graduated from Eckerd College in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and received his Master of Arts degree in counseling from Eastern Kentucky in 1983.
Layer is married to the former Brenda Peterson and the couple has three children: Valerie, Tim and Ethan.
Jarred Merrill enters his second year on the Mercer men’s basketball staff after helping lead the Bears to a 19-15 overall record and their fifth straight postseason tournament appearance in the 2015-16 season.
Merrill arrived in Macon with a diverse resume that included three seasons as an assistant coach and seven years of professional basketball experience.
“Jarred played two years for me with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA D-League and is a very talented young man,” said Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman. “He has great experience at different levels of the pro ranks, which he will be able to bring to recruiting and individual workouts with our guys. His demeanor and attitude about the game will be tremendous for our program and we are thrilled to have him join our staff.”
Merrill spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Southern Nazarene, where he helped guide the Crimson Storm to a third-place finish at the 2014 National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Tournament. During his time at Southern Nazarene, Merrill also oversaw the development of 2014-15 All-Great American Conference selection and 2013-14 GAC Newcomer of the Year, LB Willis.
The 2005 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Player of the Year native starred at Oklahoma Christian, where he holds the all-time scoring record (2,189 points) and ranks second on the school’s all-time rebounding list with 1,120 career boards.
Merrill also set school records for single-season scoring (821 points), free throws made (259) and attempted (311), while owning the top marks in career field goals attempted (1,487) as well career free throws made (650) and attempted (795). He also shares the school record for career double-doubles with 59.
After his career at Oklahoma Christian, Merrill enjoyed a seven-year professional career with stops in Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, Spain and South Korea. A member of the Oklahoma Christian Athletic Hall of Fame, Merrill also played professionally in the NBA D-League, the American Basketball Association and the United States Basketball League.
A native of Abilene, Texas and coach at Oklahoma City power Bishop McGuiness High School, he earned a master’s degree in management from Southern Nazarene in 2015 and a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Christian in 2005.
Jarred and his wife Candace have two children, a daughter, Jaya, and a son, Mannix.