|Alma Mater:||Tennessee '95|
Nikki McCray-Penson was named the seventh head coach of the Old Dominion women's basketball program on May 24, 2017.
“I could not be more excited to join the Old Dominion program, its tradition, its people and its fan base,” said McCray-Penson. “There is so much opportunity to bring the tradition of winning back to ODU because of the investment by the University's leadership and the fan base. I felt it the minute I stepped on campus and I can't wait to get to Norfolk and begin the process of shaping this program.”
McCray-Penson, who previously served as an assistant coach at South Carolina since May of 2008, helped lead South Carolina to its first-ever National Championship last season. A two-time Olympic gold medal winner and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in 2012, McCray-Penson reunited with her former 1996 Team USA teammate when she joined head coach Dawn Staley's South Carolina staff as an assistant in May of 2008.
"Blessings come in different forms, but working with Nikki for the last nine years has been life fulfilling,” said South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “ODU's past, present and future players and the Lady Monarch community have gotten a gem of a person and head coach."
Following an 11-year professional playing career, McCray-Penson moved into the coaching ranks in 2006, spending two seasons at Western Kentucky before joining the Gamecocks. A three-time WNBA All-Star and the 1996-97 American Basketball League's Most Valuable Player, McCray-Penson has proven to be a standout recruiter who helped South Carolina land the nation's No. 2 recruiting class and the top player in the country in 2014.
South Carolina earned four straight NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds, the program's first coming in 2014. Appearing in the event's Sweet 16 in five of the last six seasons, the Gamecocks reached their first NCAA Final Four in 2015. South Carolina capped the 2016-17 season with its best final national ranking, coming in at No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Gamecocks finished among the nation's top 10 each of the past four seasons.
McCray-Penson takes over the reign of one of the most storied women's basketball programs in college basketball. The Lady Monarchs have over 1,000 program wins, three national championships, 25 NCAA Tournament appearances, 17 conference championships and 55 All-Americans.
“Although this may be my first head coaching job, I have the comfort and wisdom gathered through my career around incredible head coaches,” McCray-Penson continued. “From playing for Pat Summitt at Tennessee and amazing USA Basketball coaches, to being alongside Mary Cowles at Western Kentucky and Dawn Staley for the last nine years at South Carolina, I am confident that they have prepared me for what lies ahead. I will take everything I have learned from them, mold it with my core values and pour it into building this program.”
McCray-Penson got her start in coaching at Western Kentucky where she played a key role in recruiting. With her on the staff, she helped lead the Lady Toppers to a 49-17 record, which included a WNIT semifinal appearance in 2006-07 and a Sun Belt Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2007-08.
Prior to moving into the coaching world, McCray-Penson enjoyed a nine-year career in the WNBA, following a two-year stint in the ABL. She signed her first professional playing contract with the ABL's Columbus Quest in 1996 and proceeded to lead the team to the league championship, earning league MVP honors along the way. Joining the WNBA's Washington Mystics in 1998, McCray-Penson was the team's leading scorer in each of her first two seasons and played in the WNBA All-Star game three times in her four years in Washington. She earned a starting spot in the league's inaugural All-Star game in 1999 and was the leading vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards in 2000.
McCray-Penson went on to play five more seasons in the WNBA, spending two with the Indiana Fever and one each with the Phoenix Mercury, the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Chicago Sky prior to her retirement at the end of the 2006 season. With 2,528 points, she finished her career ranked 24th on the WNBA's career scoring list. Averaging 10.1 points per game, she was a career 41.3 percent shooter.
A veteran of international basketball as well, McCray-Penson was part of the USA Basketball program on three separate occasions. Those stints were highlighted by trips to the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000, both of which resulted in gold medals for the United States. She was a key element on the 1995-96 team that spent more than a year together in residency, something never done before in USA Basketball's history. The effort helped the group to 60-0 record in international competition and sparked two professional women's basketball leagues in the United States.
In her four-year career playing under Pat Summitt at Tennessee, McCray-Penson keyed three SEC regular-season titles, two conference tournament championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances for the Lady Vols. In addition to helping UT build a 122-11 record, McCray-Penson picked up All-America and SEC Player of the Year honors in both her junior and senior years. She scored 1,572 career points, a number that still ranks her among the Lady Vols' all-time top 15.
McCray-Penson graduated from Tennessee in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She is married to Thomas Penson, and they have a son, Thomas Nikson Penson.
|ABOUT NIKKI MCCRAY-PENSON|
|- 2017 National Champions
- 3x SEC Tournament Champions (2015-17)
- 4x SEC Regular Season Champions (2014-17)
- Four Sweet 16 appearances
- Two Final Four appearances
- Assistant Recruiting Coordinator
- Helped signed the No. 2 recruiting class in 2014
|- 2008 Sun Belt Tournament Champions
- 2008 NCAA Tournament appearance
- 2007 WNIT Final Four appearance
- Head Recruiting Coordinator
- Signed one of WKU's top all-time classes in 2007-08
|1998-06||WNBA||- Played for five different professional teams
- 3x WNBA All-Star
- Retired with the Chicago Sky
- One of leading vote-getters for 2000 All-Star Game
|1996-98||ABL||- Played for Columbus Quest
- 1997 ABL MVP (1997)
- 1997 ABL Championship
|USA Basketball||- Two-time Olympian
- 2x Gold Medalist in 1996 (Atlanta) & 2000 (Sydney)
- Gold Medal in 1998 World Championship
|1991-95||Tennessee||- Tennessee Lady Vols Hall Of Fame Inductee (2004)
- Compiled a 122-11 record
- 4x SEC Regular Season Champion
- 2x All-American
- 2x SEC Player of the Year
- 4x Best Defensive Player Year
- 1995 Final Four All-Tournament Team
|Shelby County School Education Foundation Inductee (2007)|
|Basketball Beyond Borders (2005-present)|
|WNBA Community Assist Award Winner (2005)|
|First Lady Laura Bush Book Club Member (2001)|
|Member of the President's Council of Physical Fitness & Sports (1998-2000)|
|Previous Prevent Child Abuse American board member|
|Key note speaker for the Library of Congress Women's History Month (1999)|
|Member of the WNBA Cares Program (1997-present)|
|JR NNBA & JR WNBA camp instructor (1997-present)|
|Hall Of Fames|
|Women's Basketball Hall Of Fame, Class Of 2012|
|National High School Hall Of Fame, Class Of 2015|
|Tennessee Lady Vols Hall Of Fame, Class Of 2004|
|Greater Knoxville Sports Hall Of Fame, Class Of 2014|
|University Of Tennessee, Class Of 1995, Bachelor Of Science In Sports Marketing|