Jersey City, NJ -- In recent years Quinnipiac has ruled the MAAC. Before that the conference was dominated by Marist, still a strong entity these days. Back in the 80's and 90's, it was Saint Peter’s. Almost inconceivable given the struggles these days at the Jesuit school. They have not had a winning campaign since 2008 and they had a four-win season this past winter. The program though was a dominant one during those years with nine conference tiles to their credit. The guiding force was coach Mike Granelli who consistently turned out winning teams while operating within the constraints of limited resources.
Following five seasons of being unable to get things turned around Pat Coyle resigned not long after the final game was contested. The school, per a release, would conduct a ‘national search’. They found an outstanding candidate right in their backyard.
Marc Mitchell had his sights set on Division I coaching since he began his career as a high school coach in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Gradually Mitchell worked his way up the ranks. The most recent stop included nine years at FDU-Florham, There Mitchell turned a floundering program into a power. Under his guidance, the Devils captured six consecutive Middle Atlantic Freedom Conference championships. In 2014, FDU-Florham reached a milestone, going undefeated with a 33-0 record and the NCAA Division III National Championship.
Mitchell signed on to Saint Peter’s shortly after Coyle’s resignation. He realizes the task is an arduous one. Having rebuilt a program at his prior stop, Mitchell intends to employ the same approach at Saint Peter’s.
"Changing the culture," he said when asked about his first priority in rebuilding. "Changing the mindset. Get everyone, staff, players all involved in the program on the same page. We want to work as hard as we can in all aspects."
Mitchell has wasted no time since his hire. He has a staff in place. Tapes of some of the recent season games have been reviewed to get a better idea of the personnel on hand. Inroads toward recruiting have been initiated.
Mitchell returns several players headed by Zoe Pero. The team’s leading returning scorer at 9.0 points per game, Pero was a MAAC All-Freshman selection her first year. Heading into her Junior year the 6-foot forward is in Mitchell’s estimation, "our pillar."
Getting newcomers and returnees to jell is part of the challenge. Mitchell was in Division III the past few years yet knows the women’s landscape very well. He is well aware of Quinnipiac and Marist’s place in the conference order. Beyond that, he feels, is a balance. "There is the chance for mobility among the other teams," he said. "There is an opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ teams and move up. The opportunity is there."
For Mitchell, several challenges await. He has met them before with resounding success. More important, he epitomizes optimism saying, "I am really excited about what is happening (at Saint Peter’s). It is going to be an exciting year."
You can watch Mitchell's remarks below: