March 14, 2012 10:50:53 AM
STARKVILLE -- Coaches have been known for years to borrow or to tweak an aspect of one coaching style or strategy into their way of doing things.
Sometimes, though, a coach needs a little more assistance in grasping the importance of a concept and incorporating it into their philosophy.
Holly Davis was only too happy to provide that assistance to a friend who looked like he could use some help.
As a former women's basketball player at Arkansas State and as an assistant women's basketball coach at the University of Texas at Arlington, Davis met Vic Schaefer early in his career when he was transitioning from working as a men's basketball coach to serving as head women's basketball coach at Sam Houston State. It didn't take long for Holly to give Vic some advice he admits changed his life.
"She said the kids won't play hard for you if they don't like you," Schaefer said.
Schaefer, who was an assistant boys basketball coach and head tennis coach at Milby High School in Houston, Texas, and assistant men's basketball coach at Sam Houston State, said Holly's advice helped him understand his women's players needed to know he cared about them. He said that realization forced him to change his style and to build better relationships with his players.
"They all know I love them and care about them deeply," Vic Schaefer said. "That is why they do what they do for me defensively. They play their guts out defensively."
The secret to Schaefer's success came out Tuesday when he was introduced as Mississippi State's seventh women's basketball coach. Not only did Vic, a longtime assistant and associate head coach for Gary Blair at the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M, impress with his passion and knowledge of the game, it is equally reassuring to know he has another coach at home -- his wife, the former Holly Davis.
Holly Schaefer said Vic's life for so many years was his job, which is why it took her time "to soften" him up a little bit.
"He was very hard on them, and not that I will apologize for being hard and demanding and all of that, but his kids as we were dating, and I would have relationships with his players, you could just sense he needed to win them over a little bit, so it took me to kind of be a buffer for that," Holly Schaefer said. "When I came into the picture, the whole thing changed, so I helped him in that aspect. It has been absolutely great."
Holly feels Vic now does a much better job developing relationships with players so they understand his demanding nature is only designed to get the best out of them. She said that family nature has played an integral role in the emergence of Texas A&M, the defending national champion, as a national power.
"It is a mutual respect," Holly Schaefer said. "Those kids love him and he loves those kids just like they are our personal kids. I think over time when you recruit those kids and you build that relationship and you work so long and so hard with those kids on a daily basis, they know he loves them unconditionally. Therefore, they will jump to the moon and back for that man. I think that is why his teams play so hard for him because of that relationship."
Vic Schaefer's intensity is best seen in the way the Aggies play defense. Texas A&M has ranked at the top of the Big 12 Conference in steals and in turnover margin since Blair and Schaefer arrived at the school in 2003-04. The Aggies went 9-19 that first season but improved to 16-15 the next season and played in the Women's National Invitation Tournament. From there, the program has won at least 22 games every season, including this year when the Aggies are 22-10 and a No. 3 in the NCAA tournament.
"It's an attitude," Schaefer said. "When people talk about your basketball team and they describe it as a tough, physical, aggressive basketball team, which is what we have been described as over the years, they're probably not talking about how you're running your offense or how many screens you're setting, they're probably talking about what you do defensively. We have taken great pride in making people miserable over the years. Our kids embrace that attitude. They embrace that and they feel that in a ballgame. It is like sharks in bloody water."
Holly said "age and wisdom" have been two factors that have transformed Vic from a young coach at Sam Houston State into a veteran defensive guru and recruiter at Arkansas and Texas A&M. Like Vic, she feels the opportunity to come to Starkville has opened up for a reason and that the timing is right to join MSU's family. There's no denying Vic, Holly and their 16-year-old twins, Blair Nicole and Charles Logan, will do their best to make the everyone associated with the MSU women's basketball program part of their family. They bring a refreshing combination of intensity and compassion that should blend nicely into the program longtime coach Sharon Fanning-Otis leaves behind.
Fanning-Otis, who spent 17 years as MSU, was equally intense. She, too, brought her family, thanks to her marriage to Larry Otis, into the fold and created an atmosphere that helped the Lady Bulldogs advance to the NCAA tournament six times, including their first trip to the Sweet 16 in 2009-10.
Vic and Holly believe MSU can get back to that level and go even higher. They agree MSU's athletic facilities are on par or better than many of the nation's top programs. Their goal now is to use their intensity, their personalities, and their knowledge of the game to sell themselves and to sell MSU women's basketball.
"The whole campus, when you walk in that building (Mize Pavilion), you can just sense it," Schaefer said. "If we can sense it, if we feel that way, that is going to carry on and trickle down to our players, their families, recruits for the next five or six years, and it is going to happen. I really believe just (like the movie) 'Field of Dreams', if you build it, they're going to come. We're going to win here, and there's no doubt about it."
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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