Barely over one week since Kim Mulkey left Waco to become the LSU WBB head coach (I wrote about her here), the Baylor Lady Bears have their new leader in Nicki Collen! Collen is the former (as of today) head coach of the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA where she’s led the past three seasons. In her first season as head coach, Collen was named WNBA Coach of the Year following the team’s 2018 run with a 23-11 record. In that same year, she took the Dream to the WNBA Playoff Semifinals.
Baylor Athletic Director Mack Rhoades said about the hire, “Today is an exciting day for Baylor University and our women’s basketball program. Nicki is a passionate leader of young women and an elite basketball mind and teacher of the game. She is a great mission fit who shares in our vision of Preparing Champions for Life by commanding excellence both on and off the court. Nicki’s professional experience will be invaluable to developing players for the next level. Her addition sustains our commitment to the women’s basketball program at the highest level. We welcome Nicki, her husband Tom and children, Connor, Reese and Logan, to the Baylor family.”
Collen’s hiring came out of left field for many avid Baylor fans who would’ve had WBB favorites like Molly Miller of Grand Canyon University or Adia Barnes of Arizona on their wishlists. But although those current NCAA coaches didn’t ultimately become the new Lady Bears head coach, Collen is bringing with her to Waco an incredible amount of professional knowledge beneficial to all of the student athletes she’ll mentor. Prior to her three years with the Dream, Collen coached two years under head coach Curt Miller of the Connecticut Sun—her other professional role after leading collegiate players. According to Baylor Athletics’ Jerry Hill (papa), “She spent two seasons as an assistant at Colorado State from 2000-2002, one season at Ball State from 2002-2003, one at Louisville from 2003-2004, three at Arkansas from 2011-2014 and two at Florida Gulf Coast from 2014-2016.” Collen’s combined team records in the NCAA were 214-74 or a 74.3% winning percentage.
Baylor President Linda Livingstone said, “We are excited to have Nicki lead our women’s basketball program, and we look forward to welcoming her into the Baylor Family. I appreciate the work of Mack Rhoades and his team in identifying our next coach who understands our commitment to an elite program, aligns with Baylor’s Christian mission and appreciates how we prepare champions for life at our University. After visiting personally with Coach Collen, I can’t wait to see her and our student-athletes as they represent our great University both on the court and inside the classroom as well as throughout the Waco community.”