Vic Schaefer couldn’t have known his career would culminate to this point.
From inheriting a team with who had only escaped the Sweet 16 once, to orchestrating a run in the NCAA tournament stretching all the way to the national championship, becoming a women’s basketball powerhouse and boasting a 36-1 record and now, earning the 2018 Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year award.
But then again, history repeats itself.
Last year, Schaefer’s squad found itself in this very position after 5-5 guard Morgan William buried a jumper at the buzzer of an overtime battle with the then-reigning champion UConn Huskies to give the Bulldogs a chance at their first national title in program history.
On the eve of a second-straight National Championship game appearance, @CoachVic_MSU earns much-deserved recognition!@wernerladderco @NaismithTrophy Coach of the Year: https://t.co/EgMq1I6TTF pic.twitter.com/LuBo7BNiXm— NCAA Women's BKB (@ncaawbb) March 31, 2018
After a huge shot from redshirt senior Roshunda Johnson this time around sent Mississippi State to overtime with a tough Louisville team and eventually, back to another national championship. Yet another notch in this Schaefer’s belt of accomplishments.
“Our team's been special this year. Obviously, when you're 36-1, you've got a really unique and special team. In 33 years, I've never had one like that,” Schaefer said.
“Obviously, [we] have set a standard at Mississippi State in women's basketball that will be hard to duplicate in years to come.”
With a special team, comes a special coach. Within five years as the acting head coach at Mississippi State, Schaefer has gone 161-52 and led his team to the program’s first runs past the Elite Eight since 2010. He’s molded the Bulldogs into an almost unstoppable team, with record-setting and breaking players like Teaira McCowan and Victoria Vivians who has evolved into an All-American player in the past year.
Coaching a team stocked with notable players to back-to-back championships is a tough task, no doubt, but Schaefer approaches it the way he does with parenting his own two children, Blair, a senior guard for the Bulldogs, and Logan.
“I try to be [a dad] to all these kids too. I just love them to death like they're my own, you know. It's a special group not only to have my twins, but I've got 14 daughters. It's really, really special and unique that I really enjoy about my job.” Schaefer said in a press conference.
Schaefer was nominated for Coach of the Year alongside UConn's Geno Auriemma, Oregon's Kelly Graves and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw.
Mississippi State came up short in the 2017 national championship, losing to South Carolina. But they will look to capture their first ever national championship, taking on Notre Dame Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, hoping to complete what Schaefer and the Bulldogs consider "unfinished business."