Praise the Lord and Hook ‘Em Horns
It was the tweet heard all around the college basketball world:
Guess who’s coming to the Forty... pic.twitter.com/hSAyjbvqTH— Chris Del Conte (@_delconte) April 5, 2020
The question is: What do you get from the hire of Vic Schaefer?
There might not be any easier answer in all of sports. When you look at the growth of women’s basketball, it would be wrong to not have Vic Schaefer’s name right smack dab in the middle of the discussion. There are few coaches who will impact any sport like Schaefer has thus far in his career and now he will look to continue that legacy on the Forty Acres.
Fight, Finish, and Fans
Mississippi State women’s basketball over the last eight years was a team full of miraculous comebacks, impossible shots, and packed arenas. In the 37 years before Schaefer, the program had only been to the NCAA tournament six times and had only made it to the Sweet 16 once in its history. In eight years as the head man of the Bulldogs, Mississippi State won 221 games and was the National Runner-Up twice. They also finished Sweet 16 or better in four of his seven full seasons. How did he do it? It was a program built on three things: Fight, Finish, and Fans.
Before any plays were put in and before any recruits were recruited, there was one thing that Schaefer knew he needed: Fans.
One of my favorite personal stories to tell happens to illustrate the Vic Schaefer Way quite clearly. I will never forget February 25th, 2018 — Mississippi State had just beaten Kentucky and finished a perfect regular season, but just as normal, the bus dropped the team off in a parking lot, right in front of the dorms. I had driven about 2.5 hours just to interview Coach Schaefer and the team on this particular Sunday. Off stepped the team to a parking lot full of fans. No sooner than a player had stepped a foot off the bus, the rain began to pour down. I mean, it was raining cats and dogs. There I was, an eager 20 year old, ready to conduct one of my first major interviews.
Naturally, the crowd immediately started heading to their cars when Coach Schaefer headed back into the bus. About a minute later, with a giant SEC-decorated umbrella in hand, Coach Schaefer came out of the bus. Schaefer and his team, the same people who had just played an SEC basketball game and traveled back from Kentucky in that very same day stood in the rain for 45 minutes greeting and thanking fans for coming. They signed autographs, took selfies, and Coach even held someone’s dog for a picture. That is what he’s all about. That is the absolute epitome of what he brings to the University of Texas.
I have covered him for nearly eight years, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to keep doing it. I will tell you personally that there won’t be a coach that bleeds burnt orange like Schaefer will bleed burnt orange. If you love basketball, you are going to love Schaefer.
I mean, what was his first act as the new Texas head coach? Well, Schaefer took a whole freakin’ page out of the Austin American-Statesman to show his excitement for his new team:
New Texas women's coach Vic Schaefer has a full-page ad in today's Statesman thanking the school for the opportunity. pic.twitter.com/2uXo01t1Iw— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) April 7, 2020
Well, because that is who he is. Secondly, because the fans make the fight and the fight makes the finish.
Highly expect this team to spend 45 minutes to an hour after every game taking pictures, speaking to fans, and signing autographs. Those interactions led to an outstanding growth in attendance in Starkville. Hundreds of fans grew to an average of about 8,500 fans in attendance for games over his tenure at Mississippi State.
With support came victories, led by his imposing defense. A defense in which will feed off of the energy from a packed arena. A defense in which he expects to fight every single play, every single game:
I would expect a whole lot of finish in this team, and it will probably be this team finishing No. 1 in the polls.
The ceiling was high for next season, and now the ceiling has been blown off. A 19-11 season this year was good, but in the words of Vic Schaefer, “I’ve got no desire to be good. I want to win championships.”