In front of a packed West Stadium Center full of fans and members of the press, new K-State women’s basketball head coach Jeff Mittie was formally introduced a week after his March 18 hiring.
A Blue Springs, Mo. native, Mittie is the ninth women’s basketball head coach in K-State history. Mittie is taking over for the program’s winningest coach in Wildcat history, Deb Patterson, who was ousted as the head coach after a season that ended with a loss in the Big 12 tournament.
In his introduction, athletic director John Currie reiterated why Mittie was the best choice for the program.
“We are thrilled to recognize coach Mittie and his family to the K-State family,” Currie said. “We believe that coach Mittie epitomizes our commitment to those five K-State goals and our vision. He is a proven winner. His 22 seasons as a head coach featured nine conference championships in four different leagues, 454 career wins, and 15 postseason appearances with a 16th to come next year.”
Currie also recognized that Mittie and his family’s connection to the area was a reason for bringing the coach into the program.
“He has great Midwest roots as a Blue Springs native and of course his wife, Shanna, is a Junction City native and a Chapman High School graduate,” Currie said.
As the new coach began his statement, he recognized that the talent of the team and the opportunity he had to teach them was a prominent reason for coming to coach the Wildcats.
“It is exciting to be here,” Mittie said. “It is one of the things that drew Shanna and I to have interest in this position was getting back to this area of the country at a fine institution like Kansas State University. We just feel like there are so many things to do here. This fits our family very well. I felt like, from watching from afar and scouting the young ladies that play here, this was a basketball team that I would really enjoy coaching and really enjoy teaching. I love to teach. I love to get on the floor.
Mittie also recognized that family, along with the connection they already have to the area, was one of the reasons that he chose to come to Manhattan.
“It is a factor in that it is unique that there is a place close enough to do those things and accomplish your career goals at a place that you feel strongly about and tugs at you when you drive through,” he said. “Those things are real exciting and it was certainly a factor.”
As he comes to Manhattan, Mittie said he understands that he has certain goals that he has to accomplish to be successful with his new program.
“(Getting to the postseason) is absolutely the goal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, that is why I’m here,” he said. “I want to walk out there where 8,000 people, 10,000 people care about K-State women’s basketball. That’s important to me and that has happened here before, and we’re going to get people excited about this basketball team next year.”
An important topic covered in the press conference was the building of the coaching staff. Mittie said he understands that building a coaching staff that can help improve his new players is a top priority.
“Some of the (Patterson) staff will remain here, and then part of my (TCU) staff could come here, but those decisions have not been made yet,” Mittie said. “I expect that to clear up in the next week to 10 days.”
It’s important to note that Shalee Lehning, a former player and assistant coach of Patterson’s, has chosen not to return to the staff. Lehning is noted for being an important recruiter for the Wildcats. Her departure could signal a drop in recruiting, for at least this offseason.
As the offseason continues for Mittie and his new team, he said he knows that recruiting new players into his program is something that could be pivotal for his program because it adds depth and talent to an already young team.
“I think we have to get a little better depth in every area, because one thing that can impact a season is foul trouble and injuries – and we got some young ladies bouncing back from injuries right now,” he said. “I would like to just improve our depth here in the spring. We may sign a player or two to do that. I’ll tell you what, though: I sure like the way our group worked (on Monday) in our workouts.”
The Wildcats’ new coach also recognized the importance of the Midwest in recruiting and building a full roster.
“There’s no doubt I’m going to utilize all those recruiting contacts that we have. Texas is going to be a big part of our recruiting here (at K-State),” Mittie said. “It’s going to be the state of Kansas, Kansas City and Texas – those are going to be some big (recruiting) areas for us.”