When I heard that Mike Petersen had left Wake Forest to return to the North Texas area and become head coach of the women's team at UNT, I was surprised.
He was coaching in the ACC and was doing a solid job at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were 20-14 last season, only the second 20-win campaign in school history. And when Petersen got there, they weren't a winning program.
That's been Petersen's pattern. He goes to schools that he believes have the necessary ingredients for success, but just haven't gotten there in a while. When he came to TCU in 1996, the program was one of the worst in Division I. In four years, he got things going in the right direction and posted a winning record in his final season. The Lady Frogs hadn't done that in 17 years.
He replaces Karen Aston, who left after one season for Texas. She was 15-16 for the Mean Green.
"I just thought that it looked to me like all of the pieces are here to build something really good," Petersen said about UNT. "That’s what I do. Some people look at places where they haven't had winning seasons in a while and want to stay away. I look at it and think of the potential there. Some places have it and others don’t."
He believes UNT has it. The program does have a history of winning seasons, just not recently.
I was a student at TCU for Petersen's first two seasons and broadcasted the women's basketball games. I watched many blowouts in my first two seasons on the job, but Petersen immediately altered the attitude. It took some time, but the Lady Frogs learned how to win. He could crack jokes and clearly enjoyed his job, but he knew when it was time to get down to business. His practices were always lively and involved constant motion and plenty of film study and he considered a good shoot-around as critical to a successful game.
He turned 54 this week and returns to an area that he's recruited and where he and his wife have friends.
"I just think it’s a place with really good potential," Petersen said. "We like the area and we're excited. It's got great facilities, a really good unveristy, a place kids like to go to school and our department at UNT is growing."
If the pattern holds, they'll be winning more than they lose quickly.