Mississippi State women’s basketball Coach Vic Schaefer visited the Downtown Tip Off Club in North Little Rock on Monday with a little heartache.
The heartache, he told the crowd at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel, came from Mississippi State’s 82-64 loss to Tennessee on Sunday in Starkville, Miss.
“In front of 10,500 people, we got our tail handed to us on national TV,” Schaefer said. “But if you would have told me in October, ‘Hey Vic, you’re going to be 27-3, you’re going to play for the SEC championship in your last game of the year,’ I would have said, ‘I’ll see you in March.’ I would have taken it.
“You’re never out of the range of having heartache. No matter how good things are going, there can be heartache. We got a little heartache right now. Now it’s about how are we going to respond? As a Christian man, I got to believe there may be something bigger down the line. That’s the way I choose to look at it.”
Schaefer, 55, is familiar with the state of Arkansas.
In 1997-2003, Schaefer was an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville under Coach Gary Blair. When Blair left Arkansas in 2003 for Texas A&M, Schaefer followed and the Aggies won the national championship in 2011.
One year later, Schaefer took the head coaching position at Mississippi State. He is 117-49 in five seasons, leading the Bulldogs to two NCAA Tournament appearances the past two seasons, including a trip to the Sweet 16 a year ago. Mississippi State is 27-3 this season, including a 13-2 record in the SEC.
When Blair was hired at Texas A&M, it was bittersweet for Schaefer and his family despite being able to coach at his alma mater.
“I didn’t want to leave Arkansas,” Schaefer said. “They didn’t give me the job. Holly [his wife] thought we were going to get the job. She was so distraught when we didn’t get the job I had to hide the matches from here because I thought she was going to burn the whole place down.”
Schaefer’s ties to Arkansas have been beneficial in recruiting. The Bulldogs have two Arkansas natives in the program — junior guard Roshunda Johnson (Little Rock Parkview) and former Razorbacks guard Jordan Danberry (Conway), a sophomore who transferred to Mississippi State earlier this year. Danberry will be eligible for the Bulldogs for the 2018 spring semester.
Next season, Little Rock Central guard Bre’Amber Scott will head to Starkville. Scott is averaging 20 points per game this season for Central, which is a No. 2 seed in this week’s Class 7A state tournament.
“She’s perfect for us at State,” Schaefer said of Scott. “She’s a tough, physical and aggressive basketball player. She’s a beautiful young lady. She does a great job in the classroom. She’s going to be very special for us at State, so we’re very excited about her joining our program.”
Recruiting Arkansas is important for Schaefer and the Bulldogs, he said.
“We’re always going to recruit this state. Always,” Schaefer said. “We speak at clinics here every summer. There’s a lot of great high school coaches in this state. This state and Texas have the best high school coaches in the country. You need to know that. They prepare kids for the next level.”