As Vic Schaefer sees it, the reward for countless hard hours in practice and hard-nosed full-court defense is wins and the occasional barbecue.
For now, the new Texas women’s basketball coach says his team will have to wait for the backyard meal at his house.
“There’s nothing normal about what I’ve done since being named here,” Schaefer ahead of Wednesday’s season opener hosting SMU.
While part of Schaefer’s routine, the outdoor gatherings are about more than some tasty specialties.
“We’re all about people and we’re all about relationships,” Schaefer said a recent Zoom media availability. “What’s really hard is that I can’t even have my team over to eat dinner. I can’t get an approval.
“And that’s how you develop chemistry. You know, being able to sit down and have a meal together and talk about something other than basketball. It’s just such a challenge to only see them during the day when they come up here for practice.”
Instead, Schaefer is working on returning Texas to national prominence, something that has been mostly elusive since the retirement of legendary Jody Conradt. Gail Goestenkors arrived with much hype and a big contract and couldn’t get the job done in five seasons. Karen Aston had a little more success with three Sweet 16 appearances but was gone after a 19-11 finish last season.
Enter the folksy, focused Schaefer, who athletic director Chris Del Conte gave a seven-year contract that starts at $1.8 million annually, more than double what Aston made.
Schaefer understands the expectations.
“I wasn’t hired to bring a Top 25 basketball team to Texas,” Schaefer said. “I was hired to bring a Top 10 basketball program. There’s a big difference.
“Your fans when they see the preseason poll come out, they ain’t worried about what No. 11 through 25 is. They’re looking at the Top 10. That’s our focus and that’s our mission.”
Schaefer’s track record is impressive. He was Gary Blair’s “defensive coordinator” on Texas A&M’s 2011 NCAA champions. He took over Mississippi State and went from 13-17 in his first season in 2012-13 to averaging 31 wins in his final six seasons with two national runner-up finishes in the highly competitive SEC.
Del Conte characterized the hire back in April as a “swing for the fences” approach.
Now it’s about closing the gap with Baylor, which has won 10 straight Big 12 titles.
“All I did was jump out of the frying pan into the grease, coming from where I came from to the Big 12,” Schaefer said.
Expect success, just not immediately on a roster lacking depth.
Schaefer inherits two returning starters in 6-5 Charli Collier (13.1 ppg, 10.5 ppg), a post with 3-point range; and sophomore guard Celeste Taylor (9.3 ppg).
Collier describes Schaefer’s practices as “definitely intense, more than I’m used to” and talks about the coach using “40 minutes” as a one of many catchphrases.
Transfer guards Kyra Lambert (Duke) and Karisma Ortiz (Penn State) should provide immediate help. Texas is waiting to