Baylor women’s basketball hires Nicki Collen as Atlanta Dream coach takes over for Kim Mulkey

Kim Mulkey sent shockwaves through the women’s basketball world in late April by leaving Baylor University after 21 years to become the new women’s basketball coach at LSU. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for one of the most prestigious programs in the country to find a replacement. On Monday, Baylor announced that current Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Collen will be the new head coach of the Lady Bears. She will officially be introduced in a ceremony on Wednesday at the team’s arena. 

“I am thrilled to be the head coach at Baylor University,” Collen said in a statement. “I believe it is the top job in the country for women’s basketball. I am excited to begin working with this extremely talented team and I am grateful for the unwavering support of President 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.”

As Collen noted, Baylor has had plenty of success over the last two decades, and there will be high standards for her to uphold. The Lady Bears have made 17 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, advancing to at least the Sweet 16 in 15 of those years. They’ve also made four Final Fours and won three national championships, most recently in 2019. 

While this hire is big news on the collegiate scene, it also has major implications in the WNBA world. Collen has served as head coach of the Dream for the past three seasons, winning WNBA Coach of the Year in 2018. Training camps for the 2021 season began just over a week ago, opening day is less than two weeks away, and all of a sudden the Dream are without a head coach. It’s worth noting they also don’t have a GM or team president after firing Chris Sienko last month. 

Following the announcement, the Dream released a statement thanking Collen and announcing Mike Petersen as interim head coach. 

“We are grateful to Nicki Collen for her hard work coaching the Dream over the past three years,” the statement read. “We wish her great success at Baylor University. At this time, we are thrilled to announce the promotion of Mike Petersen from assistant coach to interim head coach, who will work closely with assistant coach Darius Taylor. They are invaluable members of the Atlanta Dream family, and we look forward to their leadership of the team this season.”

The middle of training camp is obviously not an ideal time to start a job search, and as of now it’s not clear how long Petersen will remain in charge. Atlanta has a preseason game scheduled for Wednesday against the Washington Mystics, and will host the Connecticut Sun in their regular season opener on May 14. 

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