Don’t feel sorry for TCU.
Sure, the Horned Frogs are all but guaranteed their first losing season since 1998, but coach Jeff Mittie isn’t asking for any ‘hang-in-there’ type talks from his peers.
“I don’t want any sympathy on this,” Mittie said Friday in a phone interview. “We’re going to be fine, and this is a tougher stretch than we’ve endured and a tougher stretch that I have ever endured — At the same time it’s exciting for me.”
In his 14th season with the Horned Frogs, Mittie would be one of the longest tenured Big 12 Conference coaches had the Frogs been around since the league’s inception.
Since TCU is in its first year in a new league, Mittie almost has to start from square one.
But since he has never had a losing season while at TCU — and owns nine trips to the NCAA tournament — he expects to continue the string of success he has brought to Fort Worth, despite an 0-10 start to Big 12 play.
The Frogs (7-14, 0-10) host Texas Tech (17-6, 7-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday hoping to steal one in front of a crowd that should have a lot of red and black in it.
Like many of the Big 12 teams, Tech has a handful of players from the Metroplex eager to put on a show in front of family and friends. TCU now faces a more pressing recruiting task of keeping some of those players home so they won’t return home to slap around the Frogs in league play.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the league plays a big factor in recruiting,” Mittie said. “I think players want to play in the best leagues.”
Once players start sticking with the Frogs, coaches know TCU will start to notch more wins.
“He’s going to do great things there,” Tech coach Kristy Curry said, “and it takes some time in this league — and we live in an instant gratification society — but you don’t build in this league overnight.”
If anyone knows about the toughness of adjusting to the Big 12, it’s Curry.
The seventh-year coach didn’t finish at or above .500 in league play until her fifth season. She wasn’t getting sympathy from other coaches, so she knows not to feel too bad for TCU — especially since the Frogs could be in a much better situation in a few years, much like her team is.
“Nobody feels sorry for you in this league — I’ve lived that,” Curry said. “It’s the Big 12, and you’ve got to lace them up and be ready to go.”
Mittie said his team is inexperienced, and that’s caused some of the early frustrations.
TCU ranks last in scoring and points allowed, shooting a league worst 34.5 percent.
There are only four upperclassmen on the TCU roster, only one of which starts on a regular basis.
“It’s a league that’s extremely hard to win in when you’re young,” Mittie said.
He pointed to Tech as an example where young players find success through hardships and are better for it. The Lady Raiders have five seniors and are off to their best start in Big 12 play under Curry.
He said the Frogs have small goals at this point, and will focus on the bigger picture once success starts to come.
Mittie imagines rivalries with all the former Southwest Conference schools will start to plop back up, but only when TCU is good again.
Until then, Mittie wants his players to keep their heads up and not put too much stock in its record.
“Our group needs to keep the focus on the process of getting better,” Mittie said.
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