Dedicated staff works hard to assist in State's success

MSU coaches and players celebrate a win last season.
Staff Writer

It’s not easy to be 27-0.

One person certainly can’t do it alone.

Vic Schaefer may be the head coach of the Mississippi State women’s basketball team, but he has already said this season that the Bulldogs wouldn’t be where they are right now if it were not for his assistants.

When it comes to associate head coach Johnnie Harris, assistant Carly Thibault-DuDonis, assistant Dionnah Jackson-Durrett, director of operations Maryann Baker, director of scouting Skylar Collins and student assistant coach Dominique Dillingham, Schaefer calls them “the best in the business.”

“They are professionals,” Schaefer said of his staff. “Their work ethic is second to none. They are great people. They are the best and great role models for these young ladies. I’ve got everything from former players to moms to grand moms.

“I think they have so much they bring to the table and that’s what makes them the best in my opinion in the country. It’s their knowledge of the game and the time they spend with the players on and off the court. We are so lucky and fortunate to have them here at Mississippi State and we would not be where we are without them, no mistake about it.”

Schaefer said MSU prepares every game and every week like it’s for the national championship and that drive did lead the program all of the way to the national title game last season.

The assistant coaches have bought into that approach and makes Schaefer’s job easier.

“That’s how we’re built,” Schaefer said. “That’s what we do whether it’s recruiting, out in the community or whether it’s getting our kids ready to play.”

The players see the devotion the assistant coaches have to make them better.

When they see results like an undefeated season to this point and the clinching of at least a share of the Southeastern Conference championship, the Bulldogs know the work is paying off.

“Our assistants are great at what they do,” MSU senior guard Blair Schaefer said. “They are very consistent day in and day out. They expect the same from us every single day. They never lower their standards and they always have the best game plan they can possibly come up with when we’re playing. it's a credit to them.

“They work really hard and will stay up however late that they need to in order to be prepared for practice the next day so they can get us ready.”

Jackson-Durrett has been on maternity leave since having her baby girl Laila Renee in January, but the Bulldogs have not missed a beat.

Harris and Thibault-DuDonis have taken up the slack and Dillingham has done whatever has been asked of her even as she works on getting a masters degree.

“I think Dom has stepped in as a young coach and has balanced her going to class,” coach Schaefer said. “She’s embracing whatever Johnnie and Carly have asked her to do. Without hesitation, she does it.
“There is a reason they give you three full-time assistants and (Harris and Thibault-DuDonis)  have taken a big responsibility on their shoulders and embraced it. You can see them every day. They are in the grind and in the moment. They leave nothing to chance.”

Jackson-Durrett will rejoin the team on Monday, but State senior point guard Morgan William said Thibault-DuDonis has filled in nicely and has worked with her.

William values the importance of having dedicated assistant coaches.

“Whenever I need to shoot, coach Carly is always there since coach Jackson hasn’t been there,” William said. “They’re always there if we need anything whether it’s basketball or not. I’m very grateful for them and we’re blessed to have them.”