STARKVILLE — One picture says a lot about Vic Schaefer.
Perched on the top shelf of a corner organizer, the only picture in his new office at Mississippi State University captures Schaefer, his wife, Holly, and their 16-year-old twins, Blair Nicole and Charles Logan, standing on a ladder to the side of a nearly cut down net waving to fans after the Texas A&M women’s basketball team won the 2011 national championship.
Asked about the picture, Schaefer relates the ordeal his son went through after suffering a head injury while wake boarding at camp in July 2010. The injury kept Charles Logan in intensive care for 11 days and in rehabilitation for 28 more days. He talks about the gratitude he and his family expressed to the doctor and the support staff that saved their son’s life and improved his quality of life. He also relates how for more than a month he didn’t leave his son’s side and stressed a resolve that helped his son recover.
Schaefer plans to attack his new job as MSU’s women’s basketball coach with the same confidence and intensity. Hired more than two weeks ago, Schaefer settled in to his new office Wednesday and met with his team for the first time to set ground rules and to define his philosophy.
“I needed to meet my team, and I wanted them to have a chance to visit with me and get in here and see what I could get done,” said Schaefer, who will speak Friday at the women’s Final Four in Denver.
Schaefer talked to his players about his philosophy so they understand how he will do things. He stressed the importance of family and that there will be a level of expectations he wants the Lady Bulldogs to meet.
“There are no shortcut to those expectations,” Schaefer said. “We talked about playing for the name on the front of our chest, not the name on the back of our jersey. The people at Mississippi State, the investment they make in our program, we owe them. We owe them a full day’s work. I want them to know when we step onto the floor, that is my office, that is my classroom, that is where we’re working. They have to earn their check. At the same time, when we step outside those lines, we’re not going to walk off the court mad at each other.”
Texas A&M defeated MSU 93-47 on Nov. 20, 2011, in College Station, Texas. Schaefer admitted he hasn’t had much time since he was hired to evaluate the players he has inherited at MSU. On Sunday, Maryland rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat Texas A&M 81-74 in the Sweet 16. Schaefer said he spent two days in College Station wrapping up his affairs before he left the city at 2:30 a.m. to catch a flight to get him to Starkville on Wednesday.
Known as “the secretary of defense,” Schaefer worked as an associate head coach at Texas A&M for coach Gary Blair since 2003. Prior to that, he worked as an assistant and an associate head coach for Blair from 1997-2003 at the University of Arkansas.
A former head women’s basketball coach at Sam Houston State from 1990-97, Schaefer said earlier this month the timing was right for him to leave his alma mater, which will join the Southeastern Conference next season, and return to running all facets of a program.
Schaefer reiterated Wednesday he plans to do that with an aggressive, hard-working style that relies on defense to get the job done.
Schaefer also said he will continue to take his time to assemble a group of assistant coaches who will work equally hard to get MSU back to the NCAA tournament. He said he has added Maryann Baker, who was a senior on Texas A&M’s 2010-11 national championship team, to his staff at MSU. He said Baker will serve as director of basketball operations and video coordinator.
“I don’t need to hire my friends,” Schaefer said. “I need to hire people who can come in here and help me get it done because that is what I was hired to do. I am smart enough to know I can’t do it by myself, but I don’t need a lovefest here. I don’t need somebody who is going to play golf with me or go eat dinner with me. I need people who are going to get in here and roll up their sleeves and go to work with me.”
Schaefer also said he has several junior college prospects on his radar he hopes to bring to Starkville. MSU loses six seniors from a team that went 14-16 this past season. The Lady Bulldogs went 13-17 in 2010-11 the year after the program reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time.
“I don’t have a time frame,” Schaefer said. “My time frame is now. I want to win now. (Rising senior Darriel) Gaynor doesn’t have three years. She has one. We owe it to our lone senior to win. I think everyone in that room wants to win. It is easy to sit there and talk the talk. It is another thing to walk the walk. I think that is where their challenge is going to be, understanding that to get where I want them to get and to get where they want to get, they’re going to have to do things they have never done before.
“That is the challenge in life for anybody. For them, I think there is a level of trust. Are you with me and do you trust me? I asked them those two things. Those are the same questions I asked my son when he was hurt and laying on the hospital bed on his death bed. I knew he knew he was in a bad spot and I wanted him to know that if he was with me and that if he trusted me I would get him through it. It is the same thing with them. They have got to know that if they’re with me and they trust me I am going to get them where they want to get to.”
If that happens, Schaefer will have to make room for plenty of more pictures that capture championship memories.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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