A little attitude
Does it seem like a decade since women’s basketball coach Jeff Mittie took over the Lady Frogs? Starting his 10th season at TCU, the coach can’t believe it either, but he’s ready to get back to the NCAAs. Keep your program handy. His new team is too.
By Rick Waters '95
This is the first time in eight years your team is not coming off a trip to the NCAA Tournament. What’s different this year?
First of all, we were not happy being left out of the [NCAA] Tournament. This team has come in with a little bit of an attitude. We probably have more question marks than we’ve ever had in regard to where the pieces fit. I like our team. We have a lot of talent. We have four transfers who will play a lot for us. We have two starters back and some solid contributors back. From a coaching standpoint, I have to find out what combination of players will be most effective for us. That’s true every year, but more so this season than any before.
You’ve said this will be a “different kind of TCU team.” What did you mean by that?
We have more size than we’ve ever had. We have athleticism in spots, but we’re not the speedy, get-up-the-floor team we’ve been in the past. I think one of the things we’ve got to find here in the early part of practice is an aggressive mentality. We have to play harder and want it more. We lost a lot of scoring. We have to find who our scorers will be. We’re going to be a lot better team in January and February than we are now.
The men’s game has a new three-point arc and you’ve said before that you don’t like separate lines for the men’s and women’s game. Do you still feel that way?
Yes, we need more uniformity in the two games. Our players can shoot it from [the new men’s line]. I think it affects our players a little. They’ve been visually conditioned to keep their toes behind the three-point line. Now we’re saying to get their toes on the [men’s] line. That’s new for them, but we adjusted over the summer. The way it looks aesthetically on the court, I just want to put a badmitton net out there. It’s awful.
Why are you a proponent of having your team scrimmage against male practice players?
They make us better. We need physical play, and going against the guys helps us with rebounding, with defense.
Is it not as controversial as before?
I think people are more comfortable with it now. They see that it makes the players better. The concern was that it was being overused and taking practice opportunities away from players. But I think NCAA concluded that it was being used for the right reasons, and players like it. Our girls like it.
You and your coaching staff really embrace technology when it comes to making the program available to fans and alums. What’s your thinking behind that?
Last year, we started putting post-game interviews on the Web. Over the years, we have had international players who have families that can’t see them play. So partly, it’s been for our own players and their families, but it is also good for exposure for the program. We’re not unique in that. Other programs do it too. Kids are used to seeing themselves on the Internet.
New assistant coach Brian Ostermann has a blog.
Brian has brought a lot of fresh ideas. He has a very diverse background in coaching, and he and I go way back to my first year at Missouri Western [where Mittie got his first head coaching job]. He’s been an assistant coach at all levels, and he’s spent the last nine years as men’s head coach with junior college players. So he’s adjusting. But he is a great recruiter and is great with the players.
How did your team like doing the rock climbing wall during your annual Life Skills week?
[Assistant coach] Tricia Payne ’02 runs that and does a great job with it. It was a challenging experience for most of our players. We’ve done ropes courses before, so this was very different. Some take to it better than others.
Oh, yeah? Who stood out.
Eboni Mangum — she just seems to do everything well.
How about the other end of the spectrum? Who looked the most uncomfortable?
[Laughs] Micki Younger wouldn’t get on that thing.
Does it feel like this is your 10th season at TCU?
It doesn’t really. When I hear that, I first think more as a parent and seeing my three kids grow up. I sort of equate our seasons by how old they are. When I got here, our youngest, Madison, was tiny. I don’t know how much I’ve aged, but I know they’ve gotten big.
You sound surprised.
Well, you know, I’ve never coached at a job more than four seasons, so this is a pretty special place for me.
A lot has changed since you got here in 1999. The building we're in (Schollmeier Complex) wasn't here then.
That’s why it doesn’t feel like 10 years. This is not the same school as it was then. That’s exactly what I told [TCU Chancellor] Dr. [Victor] Boschini and [Athletics Director] Dr. [Danny] Morrison. Every semester, something new goes up. But all the things that gave TCU that special feeling back then — the atmosphere, the friendliness — are still here. Now, there’s the special feeling but with all these new buildings. I told them, going into my 10th year, I was going to spend the fall going to see all the buildings I had never been in.
Yes. Starting in September, I went through the new Union and worked my way around campus. It’s no wonder why TCU is so appealing to students. Everything is first class.
There is a milestone coming up this year for you — 200 victories. You’re just four away, as the season begins. What’s your favorite game?
Penn State — our first trip to the NCAAs [in which the 11th-seeded Frogs beat the sixth-seeded Nittany Lions, 77-75]. Playing in Ruston, La., was close enough for our fans to drive to the game, and we had a lot of support. For a stretch of games, I would say the [Rainbow Wahine Classic] tournament in Hawaii in 2004 when we beat Cal, No. 3 Georgia and No. 13 Michigan State, who wound up playing for the national championship that year. I showed our players after the game the list of teams who had won that tournament in the past years — Duke, UConn, the elite of women’s college basketball. I wanted them to understand what they had just accomplished.
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