For Vic Schaefer, developing his players and winning basketball games is a family affair.
Although Texas’ new women’s basketball head coach picked up numerous individual accolades during his eight seasons at Mississippi State, Schaefer said he attributes much of his championship success to his tight-knit staff, which now includes his daughter, Blair.
Blair, who serves as the Texas women’s basketball director of player development, has coached alongside her dad since 2019. However, their basketball bond dates back years to when Blair watched Vic coach Texas A&M as she grew up in College Station.
“He was always coaching or bringing me to practices,” Blair said. “When A&M was in the Big 12, I would go on away trips with him … so it’s just a sport that I was always around.”
When the Schaefers moved to Starkville in 2012 after Vic took over as head coach at Mississippi State, Blair had just finished her sophomore year of high school and was impressing scouts on the basketball court. College coaches soon began taking notice of Blair’s play — including her dad.
“As she continued to develop, she became someone that I felt like could help us win,” Vic said. “I knew there was a role for her. We needed that desperately, so we approached it just like any other recruiting situation from my standpoint as a coach.”
Despite Vic’s uniform approach to Blair’s recruitment, their family tie made the process tricky. On occasions when coaches and recruiters weren’t allowed to scout, Blair said Vic “would be the dad” when he watched her high school games. The NCAA understood the situation, Blair said, but whenever coaches were permitted to scout, Vic would still sit away from the other parents so he could be in “coach mode.”
Blair received several basketball offers, but she said she only ever considered playing for her dad at Mississippi State because she knew she could trust him and his staff. Similarly, Vic said he liked the idea of Blair playing under him because he knew she’d be in good hands.
“As a dad, we talked about how (she) could go anywhere in the country … and win a lot of games,” Vic said. “But as a father, I’m more worried about who you’re going to be around — who’s your role model, who’s coaching you, who’s taking care of you — if you’re not around me.”
Following Blair’s commitment to Mississippi State, the father-daughter duo won two SEC Championships and knocked off a historic UConn team en route to competing in their first of two consecutive NCAA Championship games.
Although she was the coach’s daughter, Blair said Vic treated her the same as her teammates, or sometimes tougher. At practice, Vic was always “Coach” and not “Dad,” but whenever Blair went home for family dinners with him, her mom Holly and twin brother Logan, Vic said the player-coach relationship was set aside.
“We always talked in the third sense,” Vic said. “I’d ask her, ‘How was Coach today?’ and she’d say, ‘Well, he was in a pretty good mood, we had a big win yesterday,’ or ‘He was a little hard to deal with today in practice.’”
After Blair graduated from Mississippi State in 2018, she pursued a career in broadcasting, but she said her heart wasn’t in it because she wasn’t able to invest in others like she wanted. In 2019, Vic said Blair called him in tears expressing her desire to coach.
“It was hard for me to tell him because he had been telling me for years I should coach,” Blair said. “When I finally had to tell him, … he was so excited.”
Blair is one of four members of Vic’s Mississippi State coaching staff who made the move over to Texas with him. Assistant coach Elena Lovato, who began working with Vic in 2014 when Blair was a college freshman, also made the move to Austin. Lovato said Vic’s bond with his family is special, and it strengthens the coaching staff.
“He’s an amazing dad,” Lovato said. “When he’s not coaching, he takes his family seriously. … I think it's really neat to have Blair there, too, because she understands her dad better than anyone.”
Vic said his family also includes his staff members, whom he emphasizes work with him, not for him. That dynamic is what separates his program from others, he said.
“I’ve been able to surround myself with the best staff in the country, with the best people in the country,” Vic said. “We all have each other’s best interest at heart, and we all care deeply about one another, and I think that’s what really makes us as good as we are.”
Excited to start a new chapter at UT this upcoming basketball season, Blair said she’s thankful for the opportunity to help Texas’ players grow on and off the court, but she’s just as eager to work alongside the staff who developed her and learn from the man at the helm of it.
“The fact that he’s my dad is just a bonus because I feel like he genuinely is the best in the business,” Blair said. “Not many coaches really understand all that he can do.”