New women’s coach Schaefer answering a ‘calling’ to Texas

NCAA

AUSTIN, Texas (AP)For Vic Schaefer, the decision to take over the Texas women’s basketball program was profoundly personal.

By leaving Mississippi State, considered a serious national title contender next season, the 59-year-old Texas native returns to the city where he was born and the state where he went to college and launched his coaching career. He’ll be within short drives of where his sister lives and where his parents are buried.

“It was a calling,” Schaefer said Monday, noting the old Austin hospital building where he was born is just across the street from where the Longhorns play at the Frank Erwin Center.

“It was a chance to come home, y’all,” he said.

And a chance to restore a once-proud Texas program to national title contender.

Texas quickly snatched up Schaefer on Sunday, just two days after athletic director Chris Del Conte announced coach Karen Aston would not be retained after eight seasons. Aston was at the end of her contract after a 19-11 finish and had no buyout.

Aston led her teams to the Sweet 16 or farther four times and had only one losing season. But an early tournament exit last season, recent struggles in recruiting and a mediocre regular season had the program on downward trend.

In Schaefer, Texas gets a coach who led the Bulldogs to the national championship game twice, ended UConn’s 111-game win streak in 2017 and went 221-62 in seven seasons at Mississippi State. He’s traveled the highways and byways of Texas to recruit when he was head coach at Stephen F. Austin and as an assistant at Arkansas and Texas A&M.

And as a graduate of rival Texas A&M, he’s quite familiar with what goes into coaching at Texas.

“There is nobody who knows the ‘Eyes of Texas’ (song) better than I do,” Schaefer said.

Texas hasn’t won a national title since 1986 and hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2003.

“I have no desire to just be good,” Schaefer said. “I want to win championships.”

Texas hiring a man to run the program is notable. The university was among the pioneers of establishing big-time women’s college sports and hasn’t had a male head coach since the program’s first, Rod Page, who was let go after the 1975-76 season. Page’s replacement, Hall of Famer Jody Conradt, led the program for 31 years, including that 1986 national title.

Del Conte said Conradt and former Texas women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky, who still works in the athletic department, both endorsed hiring Schaefer as soon as the job was open.

“They said, ‘Go get him,’” Del Conte said. “Go get the very best … When we all coalesced around Vic Schaefer, it’s a no-brainer.”

More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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