Mississippi State University Director of Athletics John Cohen announced via Twitter that Nikki McCray-Penson is taking the place of Vic Schaefer as the new women's basketball head coach. She will be the eighth coach for the women's basketball program.
According to an MSU press release, after three years coaching at Old Dominion University for the Lady Monarchs, this will be McCray-Penson's return to the Southeastern Conference. Her last run in the SEC was as assistant coach under Dawn Staley at the University of South Carolina. She had a successful coaching season with the Lady Monarchs and was named conference coach of the year after they finished second in Conference USA.
Aside from her past coaching career both in and out of the SEC, Penson has had a successful career as a player as well, ranging from college, professional and Olympic play.
According to her USAB profile, after spending her college career with the University of Tennessee from 1991-1995, the guard played for a series of teams. These teams were, in order of play, the Columbus Quest, Washington Mystics, Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, San Antonio Stars and Chicago Sky. Aside from the Columbus Quest that was part of the currently defunct American Basketball League, the rest of her professional play was for the WNBA.
Aside from her college and national play, Penson also played on the international level. At both the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, the new head coach won gold medals in Atlanta and Sydney team competitions. She also participated in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 1998 in Germany, winning another gold medal.
As far as her coaching career goes, McCray-Penson served as assistant coach for both Western Kentucky University and South Carolina, followed by a head coach position at Old Dominion. This will be her first time heading up an SEC team.
McCray-Penson expressed her excitement to begin coaching the Lady Bulldogs in a Twitter post.
"I'm so grateful and blessed for this incredible honor and opportunity to lead @HailStateWBK. My family and I are excited to be a part of the Bulldog Family and we can't wait to get started!"
Director of Athletics Cohen said her leadership on and off the court and her long-standing career involvement with women's basketball makes her a great pick by the university to coach the Lady Bulldogs.
"She is a proven winner who will lead one of the best women's basketball programs in the nation," Cohen said in the press release. "We are excited to welcome Nikki and her family to Starkville and are thrilled that she will lead us into the next chapter of Mississippi State women's basketball."