Schaefer looks to revitalize Longhorns with fresh start

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Photo Credit: Presley Glotfelty | Daily Texan Staff

New Texas women’s basketball head coach Vic Schaefer spent the last eight years of his life in Starkville, Mississippi, at the helm of the Bulldogs. But the former Mississippi State head coach is excited to rebuild the program and return to his roots, he said in a teleconference Monday.

“This is an incredible opportunity and a chance for me to come home,” Schaefer said. “My parents are buried 65 miles from (Austin) in La Grange, Texas … That’s where I grew up as a young boy in my grandparents’ house.”

Schaefer, a two-time National Coach of the Year, leaves behind a Mississippi State team that finished No. 9 in the AP poll for the 2019-20 season before COVID-19 concerns canceled the NCAA tournament. During his eight-year run in Starkville, Schaefer’s Bulldogs posted a 221–62 record and played in five NCAA Tournaments, making two NCAA Championship appearances

“When we came to Mississippi State eight years ago … I felt like it was a calling,” Schaefer said. “I felt like it was a place we could win championships. When I went to Austin to meet with them, I had the same feeling. I’m walking away from what’s already been ranked as the preseason No. 3 team in the country, but again, it comes back to a calling. It comes back to an opportunity that you just can’t walk away from.”

Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte said he conjured up the lists of names for potential coaching candidates after the University announced in a statement Friday that it would not extend former head coach Karen Aston’s contract. 

“You always have names,” Del Conte said. “You have a drawer of names that you keep around and you talk about. In any type of search you have a wishlist, you have the ‘coach you can get’ list and then you have the ‘Oh, my God’ list.”

Del Conte said he reached out to Jody Conradt, the program’s second and longest-reigning head coach, for advice on a hiring decision. Conradt suggested Texas pursue Schaefer, who was already one of the names on Del Conte’s wishlist. 

Once he got in contact with Schaefer, who expressed interest, Del Conte arranged for the coach to arrive in Austin on Saturday morning.

“I was thinking it was just going to be coach Scahefer coming back on the plane,” Del Conte said. “He had his whole family … When I saw him and his family get off, I thought to myself, ‘OK, we got a shot.’ And basically we hammered it out Saturday, and the rest is history.”

Regarding Texas’ current roster, Schaefer said he’s familiar with sophomore center Charli Collier, sophomore guard Joanne Allen-Taylor and freshman guard Celeste Taylor for several years. However, he’s unsure of Texas’ capabilities at the moment amid the coronavirus crisis.

“Right now, we can’t do anything in the spring with individual workouts,” Schaefer said. “Summer is so iffy right now … but we’re certainly hopeful that we can get these kids to campus and work them out in the summer.”

With goals to pursue conference championships and improve game attendance, Schaefer said he hopes to put Texas women’s basketball back on the national stage.

“I’m just honored to have an opportunity to restore it to where it needs to be,” Schaefer said. “I think that’s probably what’s missing right now in Austin, is a little bit of an identity for that program, and that’s my job to restore that.”