STARKVILLE — Vic Schaefer is proud of what he and his staff have accomplished at Mississippi State.
That’s why the sixth-year MSU women’s basketball coach wants to make it clear everything the Bulldogs have accomplished in his time in Starkville is a result of hard work, not thievery.
Schaefer expressed that pride Wednesday when asked to respond to his name being mentioned by television analyst Carol Ross on Monday in the second quarter of the SEC Network’s broadcast of the women’s basketball game between Kentucky and Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee.
With Vanderbilt leading 24-15 with 3 minutes, 19 seconds, remaining before halftime, Ross said, “You’re coaching all you can. Both teams. Stephanie White (of Vanderbilt). Matthew Mitchell (of Kentucky). You know, when your teams are struggling, you earn your money. Some of these coaches like Vic Schaefer (at Mississippi State), they’re stealing money. Their teams are so good. Their teams are so good. But you’ve got young players, you have got to really put in a lot of extra time and energy.”
When asked about the comment and it being disseminated on Twitter, Schaefer said, “It is a little concerning. I think disappointment would also be included in that. We work really hard around here at the Mississippi State in all sports, especially in women’s basketball. To know how hard my staff works, to think it has come easy or to imply we’re not having to work around here, is really disappointing.
“For these kids to be having the year they’re having, it is because of the tireless effort that my staff and I put in with these kids. To have any slight or to make any comment pertaining to that in any other way is really disrespectful.
“Teaira McCowan is not better because we said, ‘Just show up for practice and that’s it.’ It is the same thing for Tori (Victoria Vivians) and her improved field goal percentage or these two right here (Blair Schaefer and Roshunda Johnson), how they’re shooting it and why they’re shooting it better, or the reason why Morgan William is all of a sudden a four-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. Those things don’t happen. It’s not easy. To imply that is disappointing, but as I have said we constantly fight the respect battle here. I will continue to fight for my kids, and our kids are going to continue to fight as well because it is not easy to do what we do, or do what they have done. Our kids deserve all of the credit in the world for it. My staff deserves all of the credit in the world for it. Any other implication or thought that it is anything other than people working their tail off and it hasn’t been the result of hard work is really disappointing.”
Amanda Brooks, ESPN public relations/manager, college networks, said in an email response, “The comment was meant to be tongue in cheek. Our commentators were complimenting Mississippi State’s players and coaching staff on their hard work and success.”
Ross joined ESPN in 2014 as an analyst for women’s college basketball games on TV, including the SEC Network. She was the head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks from 2012-14, and she was named coach of the year in her inaugural season. Ross also worked as an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream from 2009-11.
Prior to her work in professional basketball, Ross was head women’s basketball coach at Ole Miss, her alma mater, from 2003-07. She led Ole Miss to the Elite Eight in her final season there. She also won the SEC Coach of the Year in her first season in Oxford. Before that, Ross was the women’s head coach at Florida from 1990-2002, where she averaged more than 20 wins per year and became Florida’s all-time winningest coach with a record of 247-121.
MSU (19-0, 5-0 SEC) is ranked No. 3 in The Associated Press and the USA Today Coaches polls. Last season, MSU won a program-record 34 games en route to its first appearance in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. MSU defeated four-time reigning national champion Connecticut 66-64 in overtime to advance to its first national title game. The victory snapped UConn’s NCAA record 111-game winning streak. South Carolina defeated MSU 67-55 in the championship game.
MSU is off tonight. It will return to action at 2 p.m. Sunday against No. 6 Tennessee (ESPN2) at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.