October 12, 2021 

Nikki McCray-Penson steps down as head coach at Mississippi State

Head coach will leave program to focus on health concerns

Mississippi State women basketball’s Nikki McCray-Penson has stepped down, effectively immediately, from her position as head coach. McCray-Penson is leaving the program to focus on health concerns. No details about the specific nature of the head coach’s health concerns have been shared.

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McCray-Penson said in a press release, “Over the past several weeks, I have been faced again with health concerns I had hoped were behind me. In light of these developments, I have decided to step away from coaching in order to devote my full time and energy to addressing those issues. Although I look forward to returning to coaching when I am able, I believe this is the best decision for me and my family at this time. I appreciate the support MSU has shown me, and I will be pulling for the team’s success this season.”

Before joining the Bulldogs, McCray-Penson previously served as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky (2006-08) and South Carolina (2008-17) and as head coach at Old Dominion (2017-20). She helped lead South Carolina to the program’s first NCAA championship in 2017 under head coach Dawn Staley.

Hired to replace outgoing Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer, McCray-Penson led the team to a 10-9 record in her first and only season at the helm in 2020-21. The Bulldogs finished 5-7 in SEC play and missed out on the NCAA tournament.

“We appreciate the time and effort Coach McCray-Penson invested in our program and respect her decision to focus on her health and family,” MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen said. “Throughout her time as a player and as a coach, Nikki has shown herself to be a competitor, and we fully support her as she takes some time away from the game to address her health concerns.”

MSU will conduct a national search to replace McCray-Penson as head coach. In the interim, Doug Novak, who was an associate head coach under McCray-Penson, will serve as acting head coach.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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