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WNBA legend who helped bring head coaching diversity to SEC Nikki McCray-Penson steps down to focus on health

Nikki McCray-Penson was a phenomenal player and was on the rise as a coach before announcing that she would be stepping down as head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

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Nikki McCray-Penson
Keith Lucas, Mississippi Clarion Ledger via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Nikki McCray-Penson has stepped down as head coach of the Mississippi State women’s basketball team to focus on her health, the program announced on Oct. 12.

McCray-Penson was a big-name hire for the Bulldogs on April 11, 2020. The team began the 2020-21 season ranked at No. 6 but went 10-9 (5-7 SEC) and failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

Doug Novak has been promoted to interim head coach for the Bulldogs.

McCray-Penson was previously the head coach at Old Dominion from 2017 to 2020 and won a national championship as an assistant at South Carolina in 2017. A member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, she played nine seasons in the WNBA and made three All-Star Games. Under legendary head coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee, McCray-Penson was named SEC Player of the Year twice and took the Lady Volunteers to the national championship game in 1995.

McCray-Penson was one of seven Black women head coaches in SEC women’s basketball last year.