Bad news in women's basketball: McCray-Penson steps down

Jessika Carter shoots in the Feb. 23, 2020 game against the University of Alabama.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mississippi State University women’s basketball found themselves without a coach after Nikki McCray-Penson stepped down. The former University of Tennessee guard and WNBA player became the head coach for MSU in 2020. 

Today, McCray-Penson announced she was resigning from her coaching position to focus on her health.

“I have been faced again with health concerns I had hoped were behind me,” McCray-Penson said in an MSU Athletics press release.

McCray-Penson mentioned her hope for a continued future in coaching, but said the best decision for herself and her family in the present moment is to step back. 

“I look forward to returning to coaching when I am able," McCray-Penson said in that same release.  

For the time being, the associate head coach of MSU women’s basketball, Doug Novak, will step in as interim head coach. MSU will continue its search for a permanent replacement.

Upon Novak's original hire, McCray-Penson spoke highly of Novak.

“Doug is a highly respected basketball mind, and he has elevated every program that he has been a part of, and I have no doubt that he is going to come in on day one and do just that," McCray-Penson said.

MSU athletics will have a little less than one month from today’s date to fill the head coach role, as the first game is set for Nov. 9. The Bulldog basketball team starts off the season in Starkville against Alabama State.  

No matter what the outcome is in the future, there is an outpour of support on both sides. 

“I appreciate the support MSU has shown me, and I will be pulling for the team’s success this season,” McCray-Penson said.  

MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen said he respected McCray-Penson's capability as a coach and player, but also her decision to focus on her health. 

“Nikki has shown herself to be a competitor, and we fully support her as she takes time away from the game to address her health concerns," Cohen said. 

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