Vic Schaefer shocked the world of women’s college basketball on Sunday with his sudden and surprise departure from Mississippi State to take over as Texas’ new head coach.
Count me among those who were caught off guard by the move. I’d just talked to Schaefer for 15 or so minutes over the phone last Tuesday and he was fired up about the Bulldogs’ future. But as we’ve all seen so many times, these situations can change by the minute.
While I’ve always suspected Schaefer might someday leave Starkville for the Lone Star State, this wasn’t the school I was expecting.
For years I’d been anticipating the day that Gary Blair retired and Texas A&M – Schaefer’s alma mater and the place former AD Scott Stricklin plucked him from as an assistant – came calling.
Although Schaefer was born in Austin, he is an Aggie through and through. So to see him posing for a picture throwing the horns up in front of a mounted Bevo head is something I never thought I’d see.
Schaefer’s decision certainly broke the hearts of his Bulldog players and also those of the fans he’d worked so hard to gain over the last eight seasons. It’s another example of one of MSU’s best and brightest coaches leaving for a pasture with more green to spend.
But make no mistake, the Bulldogs’ women’s basketball program is in much better shape than Schaefer found it in 2012. He posted a 221-62 record at State including six straight NCAA Tournament appearances, back-to-back national championship appearances, two SEC regular season championships and one SEC Tournament title.
Whoever athletic director John Cohen hires will be walking into a gold mine with perhaps the most talent top to bottom that the program has ever seen next season. That’s all a credit to the job Schaefer and his staff did on the recruiting trail.
If I were in Cohen’s shoes, the first call I’d make would be to Georgia’s Joni Taylor. Taylor is only 41 and already has 13 years of coaching experience inside the SEC, including five as a head coach. She is also a native of Meridian but played her college ball at Alabama.
I have no idea if Taylor would even entertain leaving Athens for the Mississippi State job, but she’d be my top candidate.
Of course, there are those that will also point towards Kentucky’s Matthew Mitchell. Mitchell is an MSU grad and a Louisville native. He’s won at a high level during his 13 years in Lexington, leading the Wildcats to a 281-125 record, nine NCAA Tournament appearances and is a two-time SEC Coach of the Year.
“Let me say this loud and proud for all to hear: I’m the head coach @KentuckyWBB and my heart, family & life are devoted to UK!,” Mitchell tweeted Sunday night. “I will be there for as long as they will have me! I want to make that CRYSTAL clear! Grateful to God that I am allowed the privilege!”
Then there’s Johnnie Harris. Harris has been Schaefer’s right hand since the two arrived from Texas A&M and worked wonders with the Bulldogs’ post players over the years. Hiring her seems like the most seamless transition from Schaefer, but having no prior head coaching experience could be a concern.
Schaefer made Mississippi State a contender and it’s now up to Cohen to hire a coach that can continue building upon everything Schaefer accomplished and keep the Bulldogs among the nation’s elite.
Logan Lowery (logan.lowery @journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Journal. He blogs daily at DJournal.com