Mississippi State hires Louisville assistant Sam Purcell as head coach


Mississippi State has hired longtime Louisville assistant Sam Purcell as its next women’s basketball head coach.

Purcell will continue to coach at Louisville through their NCAA tournament run after the team went 25-4 in the regular season. The Cardinals were named a No. 1 seed in the Wichita region and will face off against No. 16-seed Albany in the first round.

Starting out as a student coach at Auburn in 2000, Purcell also coached at Tulsa and Georgia Tech before joining Louisville in 2013. In 2018, he was a part of the Cardinals’ Final Four run.

“During our search, Sam Purcell routinely emerged as one of the nation’s elite recruiters and more importantly, a terrific fit to lead our program,” Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen said in a statement. “Sam has been an integral part of some of the most successful teams in women’s basketball. He is creative, meticulous, and has shown a proven ability to recruit the nation’s top talent and develop student-athletes.”

Nikki McCray-Penson stepped down from the position in October, citing health concerns. She replaced Vic Schaefer, who took over in 2012 and led the Bulldogs to the 2017 and 2018 national championship games, but left for Texas in 2020. Doug Novak has filled in in the interim, helping the Bulldogs to a 15-14 finish (6-10 SEC).

“I could not ask for a better situation for us,” Purcell said in a press conference. “This is a special place. I had no idea I was going to leave but when a great opportunity comes, you have to take it.”