New Heights

Mark Campbell, the new women’s basketball coach, believes TCU has all the tools to be successful.

Mark Campbell has a history of helping rebuild women's basketball programs at Oregon State, Oregon and Sacramento State. Courtesy of TCU Athletics | Ellman Photography

New Heights

Mark Campbell, the new women’s basketball coach, believes TCU has all the tools to be successful.

TCU found Campbell at California State University, Sacramento, where in two seasons he revived a moribund women’s basketball program and took it to the NCAA Tournament. Looking for a similar turnaround, TCU hired Campbell on March 21.

The new coach, an assistant at Oregon State and Oregon before landing his first head coaching job at Sacramento State, brings a track record as a strong recruiter. In his first month on the job he brought in talent that could make the Frogs a threat in the upcoming Big 12 season.  

Why TCU? 

It truly has everything, which is why you’ve seen elite success across the board in all the sports. It’s truly remarkable to just observe. It’s inspiring to be around, and it’s motivating to make sure we build our program to an elite level. Fort Worth is an incredible community with just tremendous fan support. The campus is gorgeous, and the university is prestigious. Facilities and resources and money. It literally checks every single box. There’s no reason we can’t build one of the premier women’s programs in the country. 

Mark Campbell said that summer practices were geared toward meshing the new players with the returning players. Courtesy of TCU Athletics | Ellman Photography

Does the campus sell itself to recruits? 

It truly does, which is why we were very successful in the transfer portal. We added six talented young ladies. And, really, once we got them to campus, we’ve had a pretty high percentage of closing the deals. 

What was your first order of business after accepting the position? 

It happens fast. You have a tiny window to identify the kids in the portal, and that process happens very, very quickly. You’ve got to take advantage of those kids that are available, while at the same time you’ve got to evaluate your current roster, meet with the players, identify which ones want to stay and should stay and navigate that process while you’re trying to add the right pieces out of the portal. So, you’re juggling those two things at the same time. 

Did you hit the ground running the first day? 

Yep. You’re on the phone until the wee hours and wake up early in the morning and do it all over again. That first month you’re spending every moment on a recruiting trail, on the phone, trying to make sure you get the right people and the right pieces. 

What were the main goals of summer practices? 

Summer is so fun because you get in the lab and sweat and train and work out and lift, and you only have one or two classes. It’s just an awesome bonding time. We have six returners and eight new ones, so you’re blending a lot of new pieces and then you’re trying to get the kids in elite shape and get the culture established as far as work ethic and expectations. 

The key to winning is, “you’ve got to be able to guard somebody and you’ve got to be able to box out and rebound,” Mark Campbell said. Courtesy of TCU Athletics

What does a Mark Campbell team look like on the floor? 

Spread pick-and-roll offensively, highly skilled kids, four out and one in. To win at the highest level, you’ve got to be able to defend and rebound. There are no gimmicks. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to guard somebody and you’ve got to be able to box out and rebound. Those are the staples. 

Does the transfer portal allow you to get the program back on track faster than in the past? 

We had a monster rebuilding job at Oregon State in 2010. There was one player on the roster that we inherited in August. Back then it was solely built through the high school ranks, and that’s a process. Oregon was a major rebuilding job, too, and that we also did through the high school ranks. The portal has changed the rebuilding process and the timeline that you can rebuild in, but you’ve got to be very wise and careful as you assemble it. 

Mark Campbell said building rosters isn’t as simple as dipping into the transfer portal. There must be a balance of transfers and high school recruits. Courtesy of TCU Athletics

What did you get from your two seasons at Sacramento State as a first-time head coach? 

I think it was the worst job in college basketball. They were 3-22 the year before we took over. They used to have limited resources and were in one of the smaller leagues, so you had to cut your teeth. You had to figure out how to dig out of a hole. It’s just an incredible life experience, learning experience of starting at rock bottom. We went 25-8 this year and played in March Madness. It was getting a group of young women to believe in themselves, helping them understand how hard you have to work. You have to really, really fine-tune your system. I’m incredibly grateful for that experience, and it definitely helped prepare me for this opportunity. 

Do you like a challenge? 

I think my coaching journey has been helping rebuild programs. Oregon State, Oregon, Sacramento State were three rebuilding jobs. At TCU, they were 1-17 in the Big 12. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Ironically, this is probably the program that’s in the best situation. I get it. There’s a blueprint there. There’s a formula there that’s worked at a very high level, and I feel confident in what we’re doing and how we’re going about it.