Vic Schaefer is a really quotable guy. Part of that is just sheer volume because he’s asked so many questions at press conferences, on radio shows, during television broadcasts and in the interviews following the many, many wins he’s racked up over the years at Mississippi State.
Part of that is also because he’s got such a natural cadence and creative candor to his answers once he gets going that those who don’t know him might mistake him for a Texas high school football coach straight off the set of Friday Night Lights. The accent helps with that one, of course.
I’ve either been present for or listening to just about every one of those interviews he’s had the last six years as the head coach of MSU women’s basketball, and I’ve recorded enough Vic Schaefer-isms that I could probably write a book if he were interested. But yesterday, the day before MSU was slated to start it’s second Final Four in a row, Schaefer casually dropped what might be my favorite of all his quotable quotes.
“Look,” he began, “it’s hard to have swagger if you don’t have a skill set.”
It felt like a hand-to-chest, mouth-agape, eyes-wide moment for any doubters, fakers or haters who have tried to stand in his way, an arrow of truth shot directly into the heart of the target.
The full quote itself came in response to a question about senior point guard Morgan William, who Schaefer was defending for some of the things that had been written about her since last year’s National Championship Game. Much of the press has been positive, of course, after she hit The Shot to beat UConn, but a surprising amount of negative words were written after about her lack of follow-up production, the amount of time she spent on the bench and a few other similar subjects that Schaefer found equally ridiculous.
While the quote – the final sentence in a lengthy answer – was about William specifically, it felt like it applied to Schaefer’s whole team, his entire program. That statement right there explained the confidence this team has. It explained why Victoria Vivians was on a raised stage in front of a packed room full of media from across the country and offered to sing a song for them while they waited on the Final Four press conference to begin. How else could someone be so loose before such a big moment?
That quote explained how MSU ran the table in the regular season, the first SEC team to do so in decades. It explained a 36-1 record, a No. 1 seed and a second-straight Final Four appearance. It explained a team that won games by an average of 26 points this season, scoring 82 points per game and holding opponents to a mere 56. It explained a team that has outscored opponents by a total of 90 points in four NCAA Tournament games so far.
It explained Vivians and William. It explains Teaira McCowan dominating the post, Blair Schaefer lighting up the scoreboard, Roshunda Johnson scoring and stopping from any part of the court.
These Bulldogs have swagger because they have a skill set, and it’s one that gets better when all their individual talents and drives are combined into one team.
“I’ve marveled at and been amazed by this group, this team, but when you really step back and look at the kids, these seniors in particular, you understand how we’ve gotten it done,” Schaefer said. “This year has been unfinished business. I think this team has tried to embrace that and done a great job with that. We have not run from the target on our back all year.”
A few hours after that quote, Hail State Productions released its hype video for the Final Four, which you can watch at the top of this page. Below is the full script from the video, should you be interested in reading such a thing.
This didn’t start with our first game of the year. It didn’t start with the first practice of the offseason. It didn’t even start when we had to watch the confetti fall for someone else in Dallas, though we certainly haven’t forgotten that feeling.
No. The first steps on this journey were taken six years ago, when a new era of Bulldog basketball was born. It started when our new leader was introduced, when Coach – OUR coach – spoke to us in the desert and vowed that he would take us to the promised land, that together we would see his vision come to life.
In the time since, we’ve gone from crowds of hundreds to winning games in the hundreds. Setting records by the hundreds, and packing out every arena from Starkville to the four corners of the country by the thousands.
We have become a family of winners and of champions, and we have done it by sacrifice. By time. Work. Resiliency. And with patience this new era has dawned – the age of effort, the tenure of tenacity, the halcyon days of hustle and heart and the period of punishment for those who once who pushed us around.
We are Mississippi State and we have made. Our. Name. known.
We’ve worked more than just months for this. We have worked for YEARS to reach this moment. And what we started then, we aim to finish now.
You can love us or hate us, but best believe you will you know us. We will out-work you, out-smart you, and in the deepest reaches of our ever-beating hearts, we will out-believe you.
Immovable defense, unstoppable offense. No matter what poison you pick, we’ll make you pay. We scrape and claw. We dive. We hustle. Up by 30 or down by 10, we don’t quit. We don’t give up. We. don’t. stop.
No challenge is too great, no summit too high. We’re used to the target on our back, and any foe who arises to strike it will have to go through the thousands of fans behind us to reach it.
Our strength does not lie in jerseys or names, honors or awards.
We are family strong and we fear no one. We don’t care about All-American, All-Conference or even All-State. We’re all Bulldog, and that’s all that matters. We are blue-collared, red-blooded and wrapped in maroon and white.
History is written by the winners, and this story has yet to reach its final page.
Praise the Lord and go Dawgs, this our moment! THIS … is our … time.