Q&A With K-State Women's Basketball Coach Jeff Mittie
Mittie and his family first stepped foot in Manhattan last week, where they were welcomed with a meet-and-greet with his new team, faculty and staff. Shortly after, however, he was on the road for a weekend full of recruiting.
After returning to the place he calls home, Mittie got on the court for the first time with his team on Monday evening. Then yesterday morning, he addressed both the press and fans for the first time.
Mittie, who just completed his 22nd year as a head coach, has an overall record of 454-232 (.660) and ranks among the NCAA's most winningest active coaches. Along with his 454 wins, Mittie has led his teams to 15 postseason appearances, nine conference titles and is a five-time conference coach of the year recipient.
Mittie, the ninth head coach of the K-State women's basketball program, and his wife, Shanna, and three children, daughters Logan and Madison and son, Jordan, traveled to Manhattan from Fort Worth, Texas, where he was the coach at Big 12 foe TCU for 15 years.
A native of Blue Springs, Mo., Mittie is no stranger to K-State, and the Midwest values so cherished at K-State run deep within the family as Shanna grew up in Junction City and attended Chapman High School.
Though his past week has been a whirlwind, K-State Sports Extra had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Mittie.
Sports Extra: Tell me about your experience in Manhattan so far. What have been some of your favorite moments?
Jeff Mittie: I think the first meet and greet, when I had my family here was one of my favorite moments. That was special. My immediate family was here, my parents and Shanna had relatives here. Sharing that initial trip to Manhattan was pretty special.
From there, getting with the players; that initial meeting with them and sensing their relief and ready to go forward. I've got to be honest though, walking down the street after the meet-and-greet and having fans greet my family and me was kind of a neat thing for our family. Other than that, my time has been spent in really a three-mile radius if I haven't been recruiting. I really only know about three places: Starbucks, the cleaners and my office.
SE: Now, somewhat settling into Manhattan, what are some of your goals for the K-State women's basketball program?
JM: I want to take this team to championships. I want to take this team to Final Fours and championships and those things, but that takes everybody. It takes administration, it takes fans, it takes everything and it's not going to happen overnight. It's got to start somewhere though, and I think we have to lay a foundation here with our team that they're the team that starts on that process. At the end of the year, if we got everything we could out of our group, we coached them as best as we could and they gave us everything they had, then the results will speak from themselves and that's kind of the goal for this team.
SE: You had your first workout with the team last night. What did you think of everyone in that first session?
JM: I thought the effort was good. After spring break, I thought everything was pretty solid. Their attitudes were great, their coachability was great, and I think that's a great place to start. But after spring break, they probably hadn't been working at that tempo. (laughs)
SE: What do you think is the potential of this young team?
JM: It's one of the reasons why I took this job. This team has tremendous potential and great upside. I think Bre Lewis was one of the top players in the Big 12 as a freshman. I thought Leti Romero was really good all year long, and I thought Kindred Wesemann had really good minutes as a freshman - she played great against TCU. I thought Ashia (Woods) progressed and did some really great things. We've got to get some players healthy, but I think this team can be a post-season team next year.
It's certainly not easy to be the youngest team in the Big 12. You're going to take some lumps, but if you learn from those, you've got to be sick of losing. Everybody wants to win on game night, but you've got to want to win in July, in August, and you've got to be a little irritated that you're not one of the teams playing right now. This is the best time of year for a basketball team, so you've got to be a little irritated that you're practicing and not preparing for a game. That has to really fuel your off-season, and we'll find out that here in the next few weeks.
SE: You had mentioned that you were looking forward to playing in front of the K-State fans. How unique is the environment in Bramlage Coliseum on game days?
JM: I really like Bramlage from a coaching perspective - it can be a loud, loud arena. It's just a great basketball venue. It's great when there are fans in there. We've got to get as many fans in there as we can. That's one of the things that excites me about this job; it's proven that it can be a great place for women's basketball. So we've got to do our job. We've got to play the game the right way and play a game that our fans really appreciate, and we've got to win basketball games, but if we do those things, I believe people will be there.
SE: I understand your wife, Shanna, is from Junction City. What was her first reaction to the job and how happy is she to now be closer to home?
JM: She didn't even want to talk about the job because she didn't want to get her hopes up, quite frankly. This process takes some time. This one went quicker than most. So we had the one talk, and she said, 'Let me know,' and that was it. She was really excited afterwards, really excited and emotional about coming back home as well.
SE: Your son, Jordan, is heading to the Naval Academy this summer to play football, so the military is something I'm sure you're familiar with. What was your response when you found out about the women's basketball program's partnership with Fort Riley's 1st Sustainment Brigade?
JM: It was exciting. Since my son is committed to the Naval Academy, my wife and I would tell you that we read all those articles a little bit differently. You look at almost everything differently that way. So, when I heard about the partnership, I was really excited to be partnered with, what I would consider, some young men and women who are doing some really special things. I was excited to get that news.
SE: How many of your family members live in and around the Manhattan area? Is everyone excited to be so much closer to home?
JM: I would say about 80 percent of my aunts and uncles and cousins are in the Kansas City area. When TCU played in Lawrence and when TCU played in Manhattan, I think ticket requests were probably for 40 to 60 people.
Coming back to this area is obviously exciting and for a lot of reasons. We were talking about it - football Saturdays are special enough, but a lot of our family is going to be coming here now for football Saturdays. We've been away from a lot of our family for 20-some-odd years, so when you tie those things in, this is a pretty good fit for us.
K-State's Jeff Mittie answers questions from the media during his introduction as the new women's basketball head coach at the West Stadium Center in Manhattan, Kansas on March 25, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)