COLUMBIA – Nine months ago, Missouri hired Robin Pingeton to coach the women’s basketball team. Pingeton left Illinois State, a school she had built into a Missouri Valley Conference powerhouse. She won three regular season conference titles and two MVC tournament titles.
But one of the reasons she came to Missouri was to have the opportunity to coach in one of the best conferences in the country. After months of preparing her new team and surviving a brutal nonconference schedule with an 8-6 record, Pingeton finally has a chance to coach in Big 12 play. She got off to a good start with an upset win over Texas on Saturday. Here’s some of her thoughts as Big 12 play begins.
Missouri (9-6, 1-0) at Texas Tech (14-1, 1-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: United Spirit Arena, Lubbock, Texas
RADIO: KTGR/100.5 FM, 1580 AM
Last season, Missouri defeated Texas Tech 58-55 in overtime. After building a 32-22 lead with 15 minutes left in regulation, the Tigers let the Red Raiders back into the game, and the score at the end of the second half was tied at 47. But Missouri held on thanks to an eight-point run to start overtime.
Do you think the Big 12 is the best conference in the country?
Pingeton: Absolutely. I think that’s a well-known fact when you look at the depth of the conference and the success of the teams in our conference. You’ve got two teams in the Final Four last year. You’ve got eight of the 12 that made it to the postseason last year. I think I read a stat somewhere where there’s over 360,000 more fans at women’s games in the Big 12 over any other conference in the country. It’s a beast, absolutely. There’s no doubt about it.
Do you think Baylor is the team to beat in the conference?
Pingeton: For us, every team is the team to beat. Our focus this season has just been so much on trying to improve individually and collectively as a team. I think Baylor is a great team, and there’s a lot of other great teams. I haven’t really taken the time to study where the pecking order is. I just know where we’re at.
What are your goals for your team during conference play?
Pingeton: We haven’t really talked specifically in regards to rebounds, field goal percentage, assist to turnover, things like that. Our challenge is, again, it’s like beating a dead horse, but it’s trying to get better every single day.
Missouri has struggled in recent years in Big 12 play. What does your team need to do to improve on its showing in the conference?
Pingeton: It’s going to be tough right now. Our skill level isn’t where it needs to be. Fundamentals of the game aren’t developed in a week or in a month or in three months. Great players are made in the offseason, having not only months and months but years and years of repetition in practice. Although we’ve made giant strides, we’re not anywhere close to where we need to be from our skillset. To change the tide, it’s going to take some time and great work ethic. Unfortunately, this year we don’t have a lot of depth, which we all know how demanding the schedule is physically and mentally and the competition level. It’s going to be a tough road ahead of us. But I think when you have great team chemistry and a team made up of a warrior-like mentality, good things can happen for you.
What’s going through your mind as Big 12 play finally arrives?
Pingeton: Well, I wish we had a few more months ahead of us. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. I have a ton of respect for the coaches in this league. I think there’s some tremendous players, some tremendous athletes. It’s going to be a challenge. It’ll be fun to continue to build this program and put it on a level that can compete with the rest of the Big 12 teams. But it’s going to take some time, especially in this league. It’s not like you’re coming into an average or mediocre league. Even as we improve, you’ve got other teams out there that are awfully good. The challenge, I think, is really exciting. You might have to remind me of that late January, early February, but this is what it’s all about.
You’re used to winning in the Missouri Valley Conference. What will be the biggest challenge moving up to the Big 12?
Pingeton: I’ll tell you what, I’m not a good loser. I never have been. It’s not very fun. But I’ve always said with every team I’ve coached, I don’t want to be defined by the scoreboard and the record books. We want to be a program that does things the right way. Don’t get me wrong, I say I don’t want to be defined by that, but I’m also an extremely competitive person. Winning is important. That’s what we’ve been hired to do. But in the big picture, it’s about doing things the right way. You’ve seen that our men’s team has done a tremendous job with that. What Coach Anderson has done and the way he’s done it, I’ve got a lot of respect for. He’s laid the blueprint for success. That’s what we did at Illinois State. We won a lot of championships. I think those were a byproduct of doing things the right way.