New Northeastern coach Bridgette Mitchell knows it’s possible to build a high-level women’s basketball program in the Colonial Athletic Association. She’s already experienced it at James Madison and seen how it’s done at the Power 5 level.
“The Colonial is a league that I consider as wide open,” Mitchell said. “With it being so competitive it leaves a lot of room for coaches like me who are new and in efforts to change a program around. My experiences have really shaped me and I learned from everyone.”
Mitchell, who helped lead Duke to the 2010 ACC championship as a player, spent the previous two seasons as an assistant at Pittsburgh. Before that she was on Sean O’Regan’s JMU staff for three seasons. In that time the Dukes went 78-26 with back-to-back regular season CAA titles.
In her final season in Harrisonburg, 2018-19, JMU won a school-record 29 games and made a run to the WNIT semifinals.
"Bridgette's proven success at Pitt and her track record of being one of the top recruiters in the country made her a great choice to lead our women's basketball program," Northeastern athletic director Jeff Konya said in a statement released by the school. "She continues to sign top classes at every stop she has been at, including a group at JMU that went 64-8 in CAA play. The more people we spoke to in the industry, the more we affirmed that Bridgette is the ideal candidate to take our program to the next level."
Though she’d had stops as an assistant at Wagner and Siena before JMU, it was working for the Dukes that shaped her perception of what could be possible in her first head coaching job. Mitchell experienced a CAA program that routinely recruited against high-major schools and had a 15-year postseason streak.
With the city of Boston and high-level academics to sell, Mitchell thinks the Huskies can bring in similar talent and compete with the likes of JMU, Drexel and Delaware.
“JMU was awesome, for a number of reasons, but mainly for the reason I am here today. It taught me the league,” Mitchell said. “Obviously Sean has a vision for his program, but I recruited a lot of those players. That really prepared me to know this league and got me ready for this moment.”
Though he’ll now compete against his former assistant two or more times a season, O’Regan was eager to see Mitchell get a head coaching opportunity and vouched for her during the interview process.
“I was really glad to see she ended up getting that job,” O’Regan said. “I think she’ll do a great job. They will be hardworking and they will be intense, just like her personality.”
O’Regan’s coaching tree, itself an offshoot of former JMU and current Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks, is growing. Thursday, Marshall announced it was hiring former Dukes player Lexie Barrier as a full-time assistant. Barrier graduated from JMU in 2020 and spent last season as a graduate assistant at North Carolina State.
The new job at Marshall marks a homecoming for Barrier, who is from Ironton, Ohio, 20 miles away from the Marshall campus.
“It’s cool, man,” O’Regan said. “The coaching tree is beginning. I think they will both do a great job.”