When searching for a head women’s basketball coach, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin was seeking a passionate, driven individual who could build the Bulldogs into a championship program. He found the ideal person in Vic Schaefer, who enters his third season as Mississippi State head coach.
A veteran coach of 30 seasons, Schaefer has made an immediate impact in Starkville as he began the process of building the Bulldogs into a program that consistently rates among the best in the nation.
Lauded the “Secretary of Defense” for his teams’ defensive prowess, his inaugural Mississippi State squad was no different as it rated first in the SEC and 11th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense with a school-record 25.8-percent tally. The team also paced the league and ranked 21st in the nation in blocked shots, swatting 5.1 per contest and 153 overall, the most since the 2008-09 season. That defensive mindset helped the Bulldogs to an immediate improvement in the SEC, claiming big league victories against in-state rival Ole Miss, Arkansas and Missouri before capping the year with a thrilling 50-38 upset of No. 11 Georgia in which the Maroon & White Bulldogs held UGA to five field goals in each half.
Schaefer’s squad added a big building block in year two as Mississippi State made a nine-win improvement to claim 22 wins, fourth-most in school history, and earn a trip to the WNIT, the program’s first postseason appearance since 2010.
Last year’s edition advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament, the first time an MSU squad has won three-straight postseason contests. That team tallied program bests for points (2,551) and rebounds (1,410) while rating 12th nationally with a +5.3 turnover margin. That standout turnover margin included a 9.6 steals average that was third-best in the SEC last season.
Schaefer stresses to his teams to score, get to the free-throw line or both. The Bulldogs made getting to the line a habit in 2013-14, setting program standards for made free throws (705) and attempts (997). The 705 makes rated third in SEC history, while the attempts tally ranked second.
Under his guidance, Martha Alwal earned First Team All-SEC and co-Defensive Player of the Year honors last season after claiming second-team accolades a year earlier. Under Schaefer’s watch Alwal, the 2013 CSpire Gillom Trophy winner, topped the league in blocked shots the last two seasons while becoming the Bulldogs’ all-time leader in the category.
Schaefer plans to build his Mississippi State program the same way he has at every stop in his coaching career, with intense, high-pressure defense and compiling some of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting classes.
His first MSU signing class ranked 35th nationally and included Breanna Richardson, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team last season.
He backed that inaugural class with a second edition that rated in the Top 20 nationally. When he took the Mississippi State job, Schaefer stressed the importance of keeping the state’s best players at home. He did just that with the additions of Parade All-American Victoria Vivians and his daughter Blair, an all-state standout at Starkville High School.
Schaefer knows his plan can succeed in Starkville after seeing the successes enjoyed during 15 seasons on the staffs at Texas A&M and Arkansas. During his tenures in Fayetteville and College Station, Schaefer’s defenses helped his squads to the postseason all but once (his first season at Texas A&M) while averaging 22 wins a year.
Schaefer, who has been part of 448 wins in his 27-year collegiate coaching career and taken teams to the postseason 15 of the last 17 years, has become one of the nation’s premier teachers of defense, earning the moniker the “Secretary of Defense.”
His defenses helped Arkansas and Texas A&M to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. In his first season in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks advanced to the Final Four before making three more trips to the second round. With his alma mater, he won a national championship while helping the program to a pair of Sweet 16 appearances, an Elite Eight showing, two trips to the second round and a first-round berth.
In his nine years as associate head coach to friend and mentor Gary Blair at Texas A&M, his teams consistently were atop the Big 12 in turnovers caused, steals, turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio.
In 2011, his smothering defense topped the nation in turnover margin en route to guiding the Aggies to the NCAA national championship in the program’s first trip to the Women’s Final Four. That squad also earned Texas A&M’s first No. 1 national ranking while finishing the season with a 33-5 record, the most wins in school history.
The following season his final Texas A&M squad finished first in the Big 12 in turnover margin en route to advancing to a fifth-straight conference tournament title game and the Sweet 16 in the team’s seventh-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Schaefer was also part of Texas A&M squads that won two Big 12 Tournament titles (2010 & 2008) and the conference regular season title in 2007. In addition to the 2011 national championship, Schaefer helped coach the Aggies to the 2009 Sweet 16 and the 2008 Elite Eight.
One of the nation’s top recruiters, Schaefer added another Top 20 signing class to his impressive resumé after tallying nine during his tenures at Texas A&M and Arkansas. His strong reputation as a coach and recruiter earned him BasketballScoop.com’s 2009 Assistant Coach of the Year.
While at Texas A&M, he played an integral role in the Aggies finishing among the country’s Top 10 signing classes four-straight years. His final class with the Aggies rated as the nation’s No. 2 signing class, and he helped land the nation’s top class during the 2011 national championship run. In addition to 2012’s No. 2 class and 2011’s top-rated class, the Aggies’ 2010 signing class ranked No. 5 nationally and tops in the Big 12. A year earlier, he helped ink the Big 12’s No. 2 class and the sixth-best in the country.
In 2007, Schaefer earned the opportunity to coach the United States William Jones Cup Team, leading that squad to a bronze medal in Taipei, Taiwan. He also joined with Athletes in Action to coach some of the top women’s college players in the nation. The only associate head coach to be named head coach of the USA Jones Cup Team, Schaefer guided Team USA to a 4-2 record in pool play with wins against Japan, New Zealand, Korea and Chinese Taipei.
The opportunity to earn international coaching experience came a year after Schaefer helped lead the 2005-06 Aggies to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That season saw the program finish third in the Big 12, its highest finish at the time, and sign the Aggies’ first McDonald’s All-American.
The 2004-05 season saw Texas A&M advance to the WNIT Elite Eight, the first postseason appearance under Blair and Schaefer. That season, Schaefer helped ink the nation’s 20th-best signing class, a year after their initial class rated No. 27 in the country.
Schaefer had the opportunity to accompany Blair to his alma mater following a six-year stint as associate head coach at Arkansas from 1997-2003. During that run he helped the Razorbacks to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four berth in his inaugural season. The following year Arkansas went on to claim the WNIT national championship. While in Fayetteville he helped tutor Shameka Christon, who would go on to earn SEC Player of the Year and First Team All-SEC honors.
Schaefer went to Arkansas after serving as head women’s coach at Sam Houston State from 1990-97. In his next-to-last season there, he was tabbed the Southland Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Bearkats to their most wins in a decade (18). During his tenure at SHS, he tutored either the SLC’s Freshman or Newcomer of the Year in three of his final four seasons. In his first year at the school (1990-91), he coached Sierena Autman to Southland Conference Player of the Year accolades.
A native of Austin, Texas, Schaefer served as a men’s assistant coach at Sam Houston State (1987-89) between stints as the assistant boys basketball coach and head tennis coach at Houston’s Milby High School. As a player, Schaefer was an all-state performer at Houston Lutheran High School before going on to play two seasons at Alvin Community College.
Always striving to continue honing his craft, Schaefer was invited to attend the Center for Coaching Excellence, a prestigious leadership program hosted by Columbia University, following his first season in Starkville.
Schaefer is a dedicated family man. He is married to the former Holly Davis, who played basketball at Arkansas State and later served as an assistant coach at UT Arlington. The couple has 19-year-old twins, Blair Nicole and Charles Logan.
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