Mississippi State hires Nikki McCray-Penson as new women's basketball coach

(Courtesy: USA Today)
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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTOK) Nikki McCray-Penson has been hired to replace Vic Schaefer as the head coach of Mississippi State women's basketball.

Director of Athletics John Cohen announced the hire on Saturday.

"Nikki brings energy, creativity, and a winning mentality to Mississippi State that will inspire our student-athletes and community," Cohen said. "She has earned a national reputation as an outstanding teacher of the game, dynamic recruiter and a developer of young women on and off the court. Nikki has achieved success at every step of her career, both as a coach and player. She is a proven winner who will lead one of the best women's basketball programs in the nation. 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."

McCray-Penson spent the last three seasons at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

She was named Conference USA coach of the year this past season after leading the Monarchs to a 24-6 record. She's 53-40 overall with ODU since 2017.

McCray-Penson also has SEC experience as both a player and assistant coach. She played at Tennessee from 1991-1995 under legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summit. She was a back-to-back SEC Player of the Year from 1994-95 and was an NCAA runner-up with the Lady Vols in the 1995 NCAA Tournament.

She also spent nine years as an assistant coach to Dawn Staley at South Carolina, helping lead the program to its first Women's Final Four in 2015 and to the NCAA title in 2017.

"It's been a dream of mine to be a head coach in the SEC, and I'm so grateful and blessed for this incredible honor and opportunity to lead Mississippi State women's basketball," McCray-Penson said. "This is a national brand with incredible people, a storied tradition and an outstanding community that is second to none. I am confident that my experiences as a coach and player have prepared me for this, and I will pour everything I have into our student-athletes and program. My family and I are so happy to be a part of the Bulldog Family and we can't wait to get started."

McCray-Penson was also a 1996 and 2000 Olympic gold medalist and played professionally in the ABL and then the WNBA.