Only the fourth head coach in Marquette University women's basketball history, Terri Mitchell has added several chapters of her own to the Marquette history books since her appointment on June 6, 1996.
After the 2001-02 season, Mitchell found herself as the second women's basketball coach to win 100 games, the program's all-time winningest coach, and on the Board of Directors of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
In the third game of the season, Mitchell came upon her first milestone of the season. An 88-50 win over Alaska Anchorage in the Great Alaska Shootout gave her the victory she needed to join Tat Shiely as the only women's basketball coaches in school history to reach that plateau.
Needing 11 more wins at that point to become the program's winningest coach, Mitchell's squad got her to that milestone about as fast as they could. Needing 16 games to win 11, a 65-44 win over Tulane on Jan. 27, 2002, pushed Mitchell past Shiely as the coach with the most wins in MU women's basketball history.
She is also the most successful coach in the program's history. With a winning percentage of 64.5 heading into the season, Mitchell has the highest winning percentage of any MU women's basketball coach. She has proven her ability by adding to these marks with four career NCAA Tournament appearances, two Conference USA regular season titles and two C-USA Coach-of-the-Year awards.
In August of 2002, Mitchell received one of the finest honors a coach can receive -- she was nominated to the Board of Directors of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. She became the NCAA Division I Legislative Chair, replacing Lynne Agee of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in that position.
"I think it's a great opportunity to give back to the profession," Mitchell said of the position with the WBCA. "I feel very strongly that so much has been done to pave the way for young coaches to have an awesome opportunity to coach the sport we love and now the younger coaches need to give back.
"It's time in my career, the start of my seventh year as a head coach, to give back. I've been on several committees, but when I was asked to be a part of legislation, which is a great interest of mine, there was no hesitation to say yes."
The 2001-02 season was instrumental for the Marquette team. In addition to the personal goals that Mitchell sustained, the team continued to be one of the best defensive squads in the conference and the nation, holding the opposition to 59.6 points per game. That total was tied for the top spot in Conference USA and tied for 10th in the NCAA.
Marquette also graduated all four players from its senior class. Senior Kristi Johnson finished her career starting every game and finished with a physician's assistant degree. Sarah Zawodny, an all-conference performer in 2001-02, graduated with a degree in physical therapy. Kylee Bogott, a transfer from Ohio State, earned a Degree Completion Scholarship from the NCAA to finish with an exercise science degree. Kristin Seffern, a redshirt in 1998-99, finished her degree in physical therapy, despite having a year left of eligibility.
The 2000-01 season proved to be a vital year in the growth of the Marquette women's basketball program. Mitchell was instrumental in maintaining the stability and goals of the program, despite the graduation of three of the school's all time leading scorers.
Mitchell was faced with molding a young team against one of the most daunting schedules in the nation. While the season may not have resulted in 20 wins, like so many other Mitchell-coached seasons, the year proved to be a success, especially down the stretch.
Up against a bevy of talented teams, Mitchell led a squad comprised of five freshmen and two returning starters into battle. Faced with the usual ups and downs any young team might face, Mitchell challenged the Golden Eagles to face adversity. In doing so, the team picked up key victories against NCAA Tournament teams Wis.-Milwaukee and Michigan in the early part of the season.
The team closed out the year winning four in a row before falling to C-USA Champion Tulane on a last-minute shot. Mitchell helped her squad become resilient and taught them to never give up. Nine of Marquette's 16 losses were by nine points or less.
In 1999-2000, Mitchell led the Golden Eagles to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament and their fourth straight 20-win season, the first such streaks in the program's history. She also guided Marquette to its second-straight Conference USA regular-season championship.
Her 1999-2000 squad finished the season in fine fashion, winning 13 of its last 15 regular season contests as it claimed the regular season C-USA championship and berth in the NCAA Mideast regional. Guiding her squad to a 14-2 conference record, Mitchell earned her second C-USA Coach of the Year honor.
Four seasons ago, Mitchell led her squad to a 21-8 overall mark and a 12-4 record in C-USA play. For her efforts, Mitchell was named the Wisconsin Women's Basketball Coaches Association Women's Basketball Coach of the Year. Her squad was impressive, registering wins over nationally ranked Florida and Wisconsin.
Mitchell took the 1997-98 version of the Golden Eagles to a 22-7 overall finish and a 13-3 record in Conference USA, second best in the league. Marquette earned the C-USA American Division title and went to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. For her efforts she was honored as the 1997-98 Conference USA Coach of the Year.
In her first year at the helm of the Golden Eagles in 1996, Mitchell guided the largest turnaround in school history. Marquette's 21-10 mark was 13 more wins than the previous season's record of 8-20. The previous record for turnaround in a season was nine wins.
In fact, Marquette had the third-largest turnaround in NCAA Division I in 1996-97. Mitchell had the largest turnaround of any first-year head coach in Division I that season. Marquette also tied for the Blue Division title in Conference USA.
Along the way Mitchell shattered the record for most wins by a Marquette first-year head coach with 21, nine more than Tat Shiely's 12 victories in 1976. She holds the distinction of having 50 wins faster than any coach in Marquette history. In addition she became the only coach in school history to take her first team to the NCAA Tournament.
Not only did she take the 1996-97 Golden Eagles to the Big Dance, but they also recorded the first NCAA Tournament win in school history.
Mitchell's teams are characterized by hard-nosed defense and all-out hustle. Last season, Marquette held its opponents to a 35.0 field goal percent shooting clip and to just 69.6 points per game.
In the 1999-2000 season, Marquette led Conference USA and was 10th in the nation in defense with a 36.4 shooting percentage allowed.
In 1998-99, Marquette allowed its foes to shoot just 39.0 percent from the field and out-rebounded its foes by 8.0 boards per game, a stat that topped C-USA and was sixth in the nation.
In 1996-97, the Golden Eagles ranked nationally in field goal percentage defense while setting the school record by limiting the opposition to just 37.4 percent accuracy. In addition, the Golden Eagles out rebounded their opponents by 6.4 rebounds a game despite not having a starter taller than 6-1.
"Terri has been an instrumental part of the growth and success of Marquette women's basketball as an assistant for five years and now in her seventh year as head coach," Marquette Director of Athletics Bill Cords said. "She has leadership qualities, coaching skills, great knowledge of and love for the game and a tremendous work ethic combined with a deep sense of care for her students, our program, the university and the community."
Mitchell had been an assistant for the Golden Eagles since July of 1991. She was instrumental in signing Marquette's 1996-97 freshman class which was ranked 12th in the nation by the Blue Star Index. Marquette posted an 87-61 record and made three postseason appearances during Mitchell's tenure as an assistant.
As an assistant at Marquette, Mitchell was the recruiting coordinator, in addition to scouting, on-the-court coaching, practice scheduling, season scheduling, office administration and working with the guards. She also was responsible for the organization and promotion of the Marquette girls' basketball summer camp. She coordinated Marquette's community outreach programs for the basketball program.
Mitchell continues to take a very active role in the community. She has been the guest speaker at virtually every type of event, ranging from coaching clinics to high school banquets.
In addition, she serves on the Midwest Athletes against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund Board of Directors and has been instrumental in organizing different activities with the Special Olympics and many other service-oriented groups.
A native of Harrisburg, Pa., Mitchell served as the director of camps and promotions for Future Stars International for one year (1990-91), where she conducted basketball clinics throughout the eastern United States. From 1986-90, she instructed and coordinated the organization of camp sites for Future Stars.
Mitchell was a four-year letterwinner and team co-captain at Duquesne. Following an outstanding career with the Dukes, Mitchell served as a graduate assistant at Arizona State during the 1989-90 season.
Mitchell, 35, graduated cum laude from Duquesne with a psychology degree in 1989.
Q&A With Terri Mitchell
What types of student-athletes do you recruit?
We're looking for student-athletes that first and foremost love to work hard, love the game and want to work all the time. In order to improve, they have to have a work ethic and that work ethic goes on and off the basketball court.
We want responsible students who care about the great education they are getting at Marquette. The other big piece to all that is that they are a good person and want to be part of a team. It's not all about them, but it's about the greater goal of making Marquette basketball rise to the highest level.
What has kept you at Marquette for 11 years?
What has kept me here are many things, but one of the most important things is I believe in the education that our players are getting. The bottom line is when their basketball careers end -- whether collegiately or professionally -- Marquette has prepared our players with an outstanding foundation and to be leaders in the community.
Basketball wise, I believe we are capable of competing with anyone in the country. I've been driven by that and I have a staff that's driven by that. Marquette is a place that brings the very best out of you. It's a family environment where people really care. You can have the best of both worlds in being in a place that cares about your basketball program and you are not lost in the masses of people. You are in a place where people know who you are. The success we have had, we can build upon. It's not that we've had it and it's done, it's that we can build upon it.
How will the soon-to-be constructed Al McGuire Center benefit your program?
We think it will be an unbelievable boost to what we are trying to do here. In fact, it's the missing piece right now. Even though we have opportunities to play at great facilities like the U.S. Cellular Arena and the Bradley Center, it will give us a place we can call home. It is named after not just a great coach, but a great man. When you talk about the history and tradition here at Marquette it has to involve him. It will give us a first-class place. We feel like we are recruiting first-class players, so they will feel at home.
What are your long-term goals for the program?
You always have to talk about being a force in your conference first, because that's what it's all about -- always wanting to be at the top of your conference. I think we are in a very difficult conference. We know it's a great challenge to be toward the top in this league, but that's what we strive for.
We do that by playing a very difficult non-conference schedule, because the student-athletes that we're recruiting want to be challenged by the best teams in the country. That will always be a mark of our program.
In doing that kind of schedule, when you talk long term, you talk about a place of always wanting to be in postseason. You don't want it to be if you are in postseason, you want it to be when you are in postseason. That's the type of student-athletes we recruit and that's the position we want to be in.
You place an emphasis on the concept of family. How does that fit into the program?
I think family is a word that gets thrown around a lot, from program to program. For me, it's surrounding myself with a staff that I just don't work with, but we do things together and we feel comfortable over at each other's houses. We all have ownership. I think family means ownership. It's not about coming to work from nine-to-five. There's no such thing as nine-to-five. It's a passion you have for the program.
When I think family, we're so woven together that we have the same goals. When your staff has that, your team has that because that's how you recruit. Your team has that same determination. You do things to foster that with team meals, getting together with your players, not just in practice but off the court.
It's not just about wins and losses, but it's about when the players come, you are looking after them.
You have that with the parents too, involving them in the program. They understand that in the Marquette community, you don't get lost here. The players aren't just a social security number. All across campus, we're in this together. The other programs care about us and we want them to be successful. It's about getting out of the box of your own program. It's about getting the Marquette name out there and making it a success both academically and athletically.
What are your avenues of support?
It all starts with the leadership of (University President) Fr. (Robert) Wild. I am so thrilled that the president of our school supports us in games and that I'm able to talk with him and spend time with him. I know that he has the vision for this university and we're part of that.
Then you talk about (Vice President) Andy (Thon). You have a VP that is very accessible and comes to games and you can talk to.
Obviously that all leads to (Director of Athletics) Bill Cords and that unbelievable working relationship in that I can pick up the phone at any time and he cares about our team -- as he cares for all of our teams here. He wants to make a difference. That's why I've stayed because I trust Bill's leadership and that he wants to be at the top as much as I do and he's as competitive as I am and it all falls into place.
How do you measure success this season?
I need to know we're progressing. I need to know from the time we step on the court to the time we play our first game, that we've gotten better. Not just individually. We're not going to win because of any individuals. We're not going to win because Rachel is doing all the scoring. I need to know that the team is progressing in its level of conditioning and desire.
A great line that we've talked about before that really holds true is being "strong to the finish." That the enthusiasm we have now stays with us and increases. I have to be honest with myself if this team is getting better and I have to be responsible for practice and game situations to create that. I think I'm understanding after two difficult seasons what it takes to maintain a winning program.
To have four straight years of NCAA Tournament was a great run, but I'm as hungry and as passionate as I've ever been. The teams this year and beyond will benefit from what I've learned about what it takes to maintain such a high level. It takes a confidence and a passion and an unbelievable desire to get it done. Adjusting is huge. That's why we're willing to adjust our offense -- because it's needed.
Team Strengths Under Mitchell
In head coach Terri Mitchell's six seasons at Marquette, one of her team's bona fide strengths has been the play on defense.
In her six years, the Golden Eagles have held opponents to a 38.25 percent shooting pace and have stifled the opposition, allowing just 62.6 points per game.
The Golden Eagles set a standard with a season total of 35.0 percent allowed in 2001-02, the 10th best total in the nation. Last season, MU was fourth in the league in points allowed with 59.6, both bests in the Terri Mitchell era.
FG Pct. Defense C-USA Rank 2001-02 35.0 * 1st 2000-01 39.1 4th 1999-2000 36.4 * 1st 1998-99 38.8 2nd 1997-98 43.2 4th 1996-97 37.4 1st
Marquette has been a significant presence on the glass since Mitchell became head coach. In four of her six seasons, Marquette has led the league in rebounding.
Last season Marquette averaged over 40 rebounds per contest for the fifth time in Mitchell's six seasons as head coach.
The Golden Eagles don't just work hard on the defensive glass. Offensive rebounding is a priority for Mitchell, as are the second-chance shots they create.
Rebounding C-USA Rank 2001-02 40.9 7th 2000-01 39.9 5th 1999-2000 42.4 1st 1998-99 41.7 1st 1997-98 42.2 1st 1996-97 45.7 1st
Terri Mitchell has made it a point to schedule some of the best teams in the nation to take on her team.
Last season, Marquette's non-conference schedule was ranked 15th at the end of the non-conference slate by The Collegiate Basketball News Women's RPI College Basketball Ratings.
This season, Marquette's schedule remains tough with 11 of the 26 matchups coming against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament or WNIT, including a contest with Notre Dame, the NCAA Champion in 2001.
MU's Non Conference Opponents Under Mitchell Have Included: