Jeff Mittie had little idea what his career path would be after graduating as a two-sport athlete from Missouri Western in 1989.
After spending a summer interning for the Kansas City Royals, he landed a job as an assistant baseball coach at his alma mater. He also performed public relations and marketing work.
When the Horned Frogs travel to Kansas on Wednesday, Mittie has the opportunity to capture his 300th victory as women’s basketball coach at TCU.
For Mittie, it’s difficult to look back on his 15 seasons at TCU as he approaches the milestone. First, his team is entrenched in the middle of Big 12 play and is attempting to land Mittie’s 10th NCAA Tournament berth at TCU.
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Mittie also admitted he is bad about looking back on his career.
At age 25, Mittie began coaching women’s basketball at Missouri Western, where just a few years earlier he had been a basketball player and baseball pitcher.
In his three years there, Mittie’s teams posted a 76-17 record. He then moved on to Arkansas State for four years, earning a 75-42 record.
Seven years into his career, Mittie made the jump to Division I when he brought his family to Fort Worth.
“We knew very quickly this was a great place to come to,” he said.
Mittie said he had to learn how to mingle with boosters and attend alumni functions, but there was no learning curve on the court. He has posted only one losing season in 15 years at TCU.
He said he sees his time coaching as short segments of seasons that intersect over the past 15 years, not one continuous time line.
“I was really just focused on that team and how to get them to play the best, and then focused on the next team and how to get them better,” Mittie said. “Each team is such a different challenge.
“Everybody always assumes when you return players that they are the same, but their lives are evolving, too. They are different people than when they first got here. You hope they are. You hope they’re growing.”
Prominent in those segments are several moments that rise to the top of Mittie’s mind, like the development of TCU legend Sandora Irvin. She finished her career as the nation’s leader in blocked shots and was the Horned Frogs’ first player drafted into the WNBA.
Another that remains a favorite for Mittie and former players alike is TCU’s 105-96, four-overtime victory against Utah in 2010.
“I remember how coach was trying his best to keep us going even though he knew and saw how completely exhausted we were,” former Horned Frogs guard/forward Helena Sverrisdottir said. “Getting that win meant a lot to us, and I don’t think I will ever forget how excited and pumped yet completely exhausted we were when coach Mittie came into the locker room after the win.”
Mittie recalled that the Frog’s plane was delayed through the night and the team came together to watch the replay in the airport terminal.
“When you go on the road, you get to spend extra time with your group,” Mittie said. “When you win at home, it’s different because people go celebrate with their families.
“It’s great either way, but it’s extra special on the road because you get to spend extra time with your players.”
Mittie said his favorite teams are those he can joke around with. It’s that fun-loving side of the head coach that stood out to former players like Emily Carter, who remembers Mittie firing half-court shots during game-day shoot-arounds.
“I feel like he’s very motivated to make TCU the best team possible, and that’s shown throughout the years,” Carter said. “Three hundred wins is huge, and no one deserves it more than he does.”
Carter returned to TCU after her playing days to join Mittie’s staff.
Sverrisdottir, a native of Iceland, went the opposite direction, continuing her basketball career on the professional level for DVTK Miskolc in Hungary.
“It’s a great milestone and signifies how great of a job he has done with the TCU program,” she said. “I will forever bleed purple.
“When I saw that he was getting close to the 300th win, I got really excited for him and the TCU women’s basketball program. It feels good to know that I contributed to some of those wins.”