Vic Schaefer Head Coach
When searching for a head women’s basketball coach, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin was seeking a passionate, driven individual who could build the Bulldogs into a championship program. He found the ideal person in Vic Schaefer, who enters his fourth season as Mississippi State head coach.
Schaefer, a veteran coach of 31 seasons, came to Starkville with the blueprints to crafting Mississippi State into a championship program. In just his third season he added a major building block as the Bulldogs enjoyed a record-setting 2014-15 campaign that earned him SEC Coach of the Year honors from the Associated Press, co-Coach of the Year accolades from his league peers and Naismith National Coach of the Year semifinalist honors.
He guided MSU to its first NCAA Tournament since 2010 while setting school records for overall wins (27) and league victories (11). State also matched its highest-ever SEC finish (3rd place) while breaking into the national polls for the first time since 2010. Mississippi State stayed in the polls for 17-straight weeks, the second-longest tenure in program history, en route to finishing a program-best No. 12 in the final AP poll.
The 2014-15 season also saw the Bulldogs set a school record with 18-straight wins to open the year, and they were the first Division I men’s or women’s program to 22 wins while being one of the final three undefeated women’s teams in the nation.
Johnnie Harris Associate Head Coach
When Vic Schaefer started assembling what he labels his “A” team, the first crucial piece of that squad was Johnnie Harris, who enters her third season in Starkville as the program’s associate head coach.
Harris’ reputation as one of the nation’s top recruiters showed as the staff’s first two recruiting classes have rated among the best in program history.
Harris, who works with the Bulldogs’ post players, helped develop Martha Alwal into one of the nation’s top centers. Under her guidance, Alwal earned First Team All-SEC honors and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year accolades a year after she was named to the all-league second team and winner of the Gillom Trophy as Mississippi’s top women’s college basketball player. In two seasons working with Harris, Alwal has become MSU’s all-time blocks leader while topping the league in the category the last two seasons.
Harris also serves as State’s special teams coach, coordinating the in-bounds, sideline and free-throw plays, something she specialized in working alongside Schaefer for five seasons on the Texas A&M bench.
Dionnah Jackson Assistant Coach
Vic Schaefer added another up-and-coming young coach and an additional championship pedigree to his Mississippi State women’s basketball staff with the addition of Dionnah Jackson as an assistant coach.
Jackson, a former All-American at Oklahoma, comes to Starkville following a two-year stint on the staff at George Mason, where she worked with the Patriots’ offense and guards.
In her two seasons at George Mason, Jackson tutored Taylor Brown to the team’s scoring title both years. Last season she claimed second team all-conference honors after averaging 21.4 ppg and setting a school single-season record with 643 points.
She broke into the coaching ranks at Southeast Missouri State where she helped Kara Wright to the Ohio Valley Conference All-Newcomer Team, the program’s first all-conference honor since 2008-09, and Bianca Beck to an overseas professional contract in her three years at the school.
Carly Thibault Assistant Coach
Vic Schaefer brought another up-and-coming coach to his Mississippi State women’s basketball staff as Carly Thibault joins the program for her first season.
Thibault joins the Bulldogs following two seasons on the staff at Eastern Michigan.
Last season she helped guide an EMU offense that scored 2,445 points, third-most in a season, and dished the seventh-most assists (435) en route to going 22-12 and advancing to the second round of the WNIT.
The Eagles won 20 games in each of her two seasons in Ypsilanti, as the 2014-15 squad tied the school record for wins in a season with a 24-13 mark. That team advanced to the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship before wrapping the year in the WNIT’s Round of 16.