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Bridgette Mitchell, Women’s Basketball coach at Northeastern.

Northeastern’s new women’s basketball coach wants to win a national championship. The work includes lessons off the court.

In her first year at Northeastern, Bridgette Mitchell has infused the women's basketball team with larger perspective. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

 

Bridgette Mitchell is a basketball coach who believes in dreams that transcend basketball.

“Basketball is a tool, right?” says Mitchell, who will be leading the surprising Huskies (14-14) into the CAA Women’s Basketball Championship in Philadelphia as a No. 6 seed on Friday. “You’re learning hard work, you’re learning life lessons.”

Her approach is off to a promising start. The Huskies, picked to finish last in the CAA, have gone 7-9 in the conference this season around the scoring of senior guard Kendall Currence, the team leader with 16 points per game. A half-dozen new players include Claudia Soriano, a freshman guard from Barcelona, Spain, who has won seven CAA Rookie of the Week awards while leading Northeastern with 39 3-pointers.

“She’s energetic and full of life, and she just really wants to win,” senior guard Katie May says of Mitchell.

Jim Madigan, Northeastern’s athletic director, appreciates Mitchell’s commitment to winning while investing in her players as people.

“The first thing that comes out is her energy, her passion, her personality—she’s such an approachable, engaging person,” says Madigan. “She has brought a pursuit of excellence to our program. She’s pushing our student-athletes beyond their comfort level so they know what success looks like.

“When you’re a teacher, you’re teaching in every aspect—not just on the court. You are a mentor.”

Mitchell was a high school All-American who played in four NCAA Tournaments at Duke. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

In her first year as a college head coach, Mitchell, 34, has established the gym as a multidimensional classroom that draws heavily from her own life experiences. She was a national star in high school basketball who grew up playing against boys in Trenton, N.J., because there were scant opportunities for girls at that time.

“Middle school basketball, I was on a boys team; pick-up [games] at the park, I was with the boys,” Mitchell says. “I was tough and just wouldn’t back down from anyone. And that’s been my mentality. I’ve always had a spirit of joy with any and every opportunity I get.”

Monica Mitchell, her mother, imbued her with that spirit of going for it, of not backing down. When the boys went at her on the basketball court, young Bridgette Mitchell responded.

“I was the type to talk trash, and if I scored, you’re going to hear about it,” she says. “Because back in the day—and the guys are still doing it now—they would say, ‘You got scored on by a girl?’ And I’m like, ‘Yup.’”

Two turning points stick with her. The first accompanied her arrival at The Peddie School in suburban Trenton. It was a revelation.

“Coming from a single-parent household in an inner city, it was culture shock going to a prep school where everyone is financially stable and your classmates are driving nice cars,” Mitchell says. “For me, it was like, man, there’s so much more out in this world. And then in those interactions, those relationships, I began to grow as a person.”

Her perspective evolved again at college. Mitchell, an explosive rebounder and driver to the basket, transitioned from a high school All-American to become a complementary teammate at Duke, where she took pride in providing whatever her coaches and teammates needed. 

“That helped me with understanding my athletes that I coach,” Mitchell said. “You go from being a big fish in a small pond in high school, to being just a fish in a big pond. And so it’s about really owning that: I might not be the fastest, I might not be the strongest, but no one’s going to outwork me.”

Mitchell’s teams played in 20 NCAA Tournament games over her four years at Duke. At Northeastern, she leads a program that earned its lone NCAA appearance in 1999.

“I want to win a national championship,” says Mitchell, whose Duke teams never reached the Final Four despite being a top-three seed throughout her career. “Every year when I go [to the Final Four] as a coach, I’m like, man, I can’t wait to coach in this one day. Sometimes I’m going to make a wrong play call, but every decision that I make, I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for those moments of coaching in the NCAA Tournament.”

Mitchell was known as a top recruiter in her previous jobs as an assistant at Pittsburgh and James Madison. 

“My mom has always been the person telling me there’s no ceiling, because you can create opportunities for yourself by meeting people and building genuine relationships, which is what I’ve taken pride in doing my whole life,” Mitchell says. “That’s why people applaud me for my ability to recruit: It’s my ability to make relationships and genuinely spend time getting to know people. It’s those relationships, hard work, and the blessing of the Lord.”

The Huskies will be underdogs in their opening round against third-seeded Towson (23-6), a winner of two tight games against Northeastern this season. The low expectations mean nothing to Mitchell.

“This league is wide open—on any given night, anybody can win,” she says. “So why not us? Why not?”

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu.

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