“God opens doors for you,” said the long-time top assistant at Arkansas and Texas A&M today as he was introduced as Mississippi State’s seventh head coach. Schaefer was hired away from A&M where he will finish a tenth season in this year’s NCAA Tournament. He will continue to coach the Aggies until this season ends, and in fact had to be back in College Station for a 5:00 Tuesday practice.
Schaefer, 51, succeeds Sharon Fanning-Otis. Her retirement announced in February gave athletics director Scott Stricklin time to conduct a broad search, but it turned out to be a quick hunt too.
“We met two weeks ago today in Houston, for the first time,” Stricklin said. “But it’s interesting, as soon as Sharon announced her retirement you started getting flooded with names and recommendations and suggestions. Often you hear a name repeatedly from the same group of people; I kept hearing Vic’s name from all over the place.”
The name is well-known in womens basketball, almost as much as that of the coach Schaefer has partnered with since 1997. That was when Schaefer linked up with Gary Blair at Arkansas, first as assistant and from 2000-03 as associate head coach. They went to Texas A&M together and produced seven NCAA Tournament teams, including last year’s national champions.
Now, Schaefer makes the big move to a head coach, and in the SEC at that. He says he was not looking to leave A&M, but Stricklin sold him on the job and the vision.
“I can’t tell you how excited my family and I are,” Schaefer said. “From the moment I met Scott, I felt a passion for something that I can only tell you I can identify with, because I’m a passionate person. He sold me on Mississippi State University from the jump, and Starkville.”
It wasn’t only Stricklin selling this position. While Schaefer had been to Starkville and Humphrey Coliseum before with the Razorbacks, he had only heard about upgrades to the arena and the new practice/office facility done since he left the league. And word came from more than MSU sources.
“I visited with some other coaches in the SEC, namely Matthew Mitchell at Kentucky, and he had nothing but great things to say about Starkville and the facilities there. And I’ve seen them, they are incredible.”
“I’m excited about the opportunity here, and the jump-start I have in that we have great facilities to sell from the get-go.”
Schaefer knows he has some selling in store now that he has returned to the SEC. “I said when we left Arkansas we jumped out of the frying pan into the grease; I guess I’m back in the frying pan! It’s a nightmare of a league with great coaches and players and fan bases. Quite frankly it’s everything I’m looking forward to being as a head coach, I’m excited about that opportunity.”
And, about recruiting Mississippi full-time. “The state of Miss has some very good players. I’ve been in the homes of lots of great ones over the years. The bottom line is we have to do a good job in this state.”
Recruiting will have to wait a little longer though, as his obligations to A&M remain. During this time Schaefer will also take care of what he called the most important thing, in hiring his staff to sell this program.
“Because we have to figure out a way to close the boarders on this state and keep them at Mississippi State University. From there you go outside and pick from whatever you want. And once you get them to campus and see what it’s all about that will help us sell this University.”
This is Schaefer’s second head coaching job. From 1990-97 he ran the women’s program at Sam Houston State, where he had also been the men’s assistant from 1987-89 before another high school stint. It was in Houston his association with Blair began.
Link to HailState.com Press Conference Video