A little over a week after Kim Mulkey left Baylor for LSU, the Bears have their new head coach.
The school announced Monday that Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Collen is leaving the WNBA to coach the Baylor women’s basketball team. Current Atlanta assistant Mark Petersen will take over as interim head coach of the Dream as they begin the search for Collen’s replacement.
Collen was hired to coach the Dream prior to the 2018 season. In her three years in Atlanta, the team went 38-52, including 7-15 in the bubble in 2020. Her best season was her first, when the Dream finished 23-11 and made it all the way to the WNBA semifinals.
Collen also brings with her experience as an assistant with the Connecticut Sun and a plethora of college gigs, including working with her husband, Tom Collen, at Arkansas, Louisville and Colorado State when he was head coach at those schools.
“I am thrilled to be the head coach at Baylor University. I believe it is the top job in the country for women’s basketball,” Collen said. “I am excited to begin working with this extremely talented team, and I am grateful for the unwavering support of President [Linda] Livingstone and Mack Rhoades. The success of this program speaks for itself, and I will begin working today to ensure Baylor women’s basketball continues to be a program that excels at the highest levels.”
With the Dream set to begin their season on May 14, co-owner and vice president Renee Montgomery preached the “next man up mentality.”
When I spoke to the team I told them in Sports we always have a next man up mentality and usually we preach it to players but this time the Coaches will lead by example. The mission is still the same and the squad is still lit 🔥 See you May 14 📍 #MEM— Renee Montgomery (@ReneeMontgomery) May 4, 2021
When I spoke to the team I told them in Sports we always have a next man up mentality and usually we preach it to players but this time the Coaches will lead by example. The mission is still the same and the squad is still lit 🔥 See you May 14 📍 #MEM
The move is the latest in a tumultuous offseason for the Dream. In February, the franchise was sold to a three-member ownership group following players’ disagreement with former co-owner and United States Senator Kelly Loeffler over a multitude of social and political issues, most notably her comments about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Then, six days after the WNBA Draft in April, Dream president and general manager Chris Sienko was fired.
Dream center and former Baylor Bear Kalani Brown, a key player on Baylor’s 2019 title team, reacted to the news on Twitter, suggesting that Dream players had little-to-no idea the move was coming.
Ya’ll blowing me up... Please I’m just as shocked as ya’ll 😩🤷🏾♀️— 𝐋𝐀𝐍𝐈. (@kalanibrown21) May 3, 2021
Ya’ll blowing me up... Please I’m just as shocked as ya’ll 😩🤷🏾♀️
In a statement, the Dream expressed their gratitude toward Collen for her “hard work coaching the Dream over the past three years” and wishing her “great success” at Baylor.
For Collen, that starts with building the team around All-American senior forward NaLyssa Smith, who expressed her excitement on Twitter on Monday.
Collen will address the media Tuesday.