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Petersen’s coaching style has history of success
Tim Cato / Senior Staff Writer
In his 32nd season, women’s head basketball coach Mike Petersen has been the head coach for four different schools and has had tremendous success at all four.
He could have gone to a program with a nation-wide reputation. Instead, on April 16, UNT announced that he would become the seventh women’s basketball head coach in school history.
History of restoration
Petersen said he had wanted to be a head coach for a long time, which is not a surprise considering he said he never had a coach he didn’t like.
“My first job, I was an assistant coach and I got paid $1,200 for the year,” he said. “I was coaching, I was still going to school, I was selling sporting goods and I was refereeing city league, so we [Petersen and his wife, Patty] could pay the rent. But nobody starts coaching for the money.”
His first head coaching job was at the age of 27 with Gonzaga University, taking over the same year the university moved to Division-I athletics. In his second year, he led his team to a conference championship.
The restoration projects didn’t stop there. In 1992, he took over at New Mexico State University and had three consecutive 20-win seasons. From 1996-99, he coached at Texas Christian University, where he took the Horned Frogs to its first winning season.
Before arriving at UNT, Petersen spent eight years at Wake Forest University, which was mired in a slump of 14-straight losing seasons. In his first year, he collected a winning season as well as its first ever Women’s National Invitation Tournament appearance.
Natasha Adair, a first-year head coach at the College of Charleston, spent eight years with Petersen at Wake Forest, the last five as the associate head coach. She said that her years with Petersen have impacted her coaching style.
“Sometimes you don’t know how much you learn from someone until you sit in that [head coach’s] seat,” Adair said. “I see things more and more, about how I run my program and some of the things I emphasize, I can attribute to being with Petersen.”
Philosophy for success
Petersen recalls one of his first workouts with the Mean Green players last spring. At one point, he made a joke and the player froze, unsure whether to laugh or not.
That humor and sense of relaxation is a part of his coaching attitude.
“I’m a little different. It’s okay with me if we laugh during practice,” he said. “I got them to laugh during a huddle [earlier this year]. Players play better when they’re relaxed.”
Junior guard Laura McCoy said she admires another side of Petersen.
“He’s great at ‘x’s and o’s,’” she said. “Any time we need a shot for a certain person, he can [run a play to] get it. It’s working really well for us.”
Not about fame
Some coaches plan ahead and make decisions based on finances and recognition, but Petersen said he has “never taken or turned down a job based on money.”
Although he was never officially offered the position, Petersen admitted he talked to athletic directors in the past and probably could be coaching a men’s basketball program if he wanted. That opportunity would have provided a bigger spotlight and paycheck.
To Petersen, coaching isn’t about money or whether he’s coaching men or women. It’s about enjoying what he does. That’s why he chose UNT over all the other schools he qualified for.
“We really enjoy it here at North Texas,” he said. “I’d love to be able to have that same kind of eight-year run here and be able to establish something really special here as well.”