MANHATTAN – Kansas State expects Jeff Mittie to win. Both long term and right away.
John Currie made that much clear on Tuesday as he formally introduced Mittie as Kansas State’s new women’s basketball coach at a news conference.
During Mittie’s 22 years of coaching, he has won 454 games, nine conference titles and five league coach of the year awards. He has also qualified for the postseason 15 times. As Currie, K-State’s athletic director, rattled off those accomplishments, he paused.
“With a 16th to come next season,” Currie said.
Mittie smiled when he heard the prediction. The world might not have learned what K-State expects from him in his first season until Tuesday afternoon. But he was thinking big the day he applied for the job.
“I appreciate the postseason shout-out for next year,” Mittie said. “I appreciate that a lot. That is absolutely the goal. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to walk out there where 10,000 people care about Kansas State women’s basketball. It has happened before.”
Mittie will be tasked with restoring the glory days of K-State women’s basketball that the program experienced early on under former coach Deb Patterson, who was fired after 18 seasons earlier this month. From 2002-09, the Wildcats averaged 24 victories. They also won two Big 12 championships, qualified for the postseason eight straight times and played in front of big home crowds.
Currie fired Patterson when she was unable to maintain that success, falling to 11-19 in her final season. He was displeased with the “trajectory” of the program, saying a coaching change was needed to return K-State to national prominence.
He has put his faith in Mittie, a 47-year old who was coaching at TCU. His overall record (454-234) is stellar, but his past three seasons (43-49) were sub par. By comparison, Patterson’s teams were 50-51. Currie, though, insisted Mittie’s three-year downturn was deceiving. Take away a 9-21 run two years ago when TCU was transitioning from the Mountain West to the Big 12, Currie said, and Mittie’s record is spotless.
TCU bounced back under Mittie last season, winning 18 games and making the WNIT.
“He has 21 winning seasons in 22 years,” Currie said. “His first year in the Big 12 was a real struggle, but you saw the evident progress of his teams this year. They came in here and beat us and they played three very close games against West Virginia. Looking back at the way his programs transitioned from stepping up from the Sun Belt to the WAC to Conference USA and to the Mountain West, it was tremendous progress every step of the way. You saw that progress again in his second year in the Big 12.”
Mittie’s ties to the Sunflower State are also strong. He was born in Blue Springs, Mo., and his wife, Shanna, is from Junction City. Combined with his recruiting contacts in Texas, an important state for all Big 12 schools, Mittie is confident in what lies ahead.
He was hired last week, and has already worked with K-State players and hired part of his coaching staff. He said director of basketball operations Claire Coggins and director of video Tasha Dickey will remain on staff. Mittie and Currie asked former player Shalee Lehning to stay as an assistant, but she declined, according to Mittie.
Mittie thanked K-State fans for welcoming him with open arms, but said the best part of his short K-State tenure has been watching his team practice.
He thinks he has a group that can win next season and build for the future.
“I feel like we can do great things quickly,” Mittie said. “I didn’t come here to rebuild and have it be a long process. All those things tied in. We talked about the family things and coming home was a factor, as well, but I want to get to the Final Four and win championships. I think the commitment is here to do those things.”