Nikki McCray-Penson, the former head coach of the Old Dominion University women’s basketball team and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, passed away on Thursday. She was 51 years old.
The news of Nikki McCray-Penson’s death is devastating for all connected to ODU, and putting it into words is a challenge. Nikki had a profound impact on the game of basketball worldwide, having experienced success at the highest levels as both an athlete and a coach on some of the biggest stages in the world,” said Wood Selig, ODU’s athletic director. He added, “From the first day I met Nikki, I knew she would experience the same success as a coach that she had as an athlete. Her drive, passion, enthusiasm, and love for the game made everyone around her better and inspired them to work hard to achieve excellence, which Nikki always expected.”
It is a shame that the world and future student-athletes will never get to experience Coach McCray-Penson’s coaching career fulfilled. Nikki’s husband, Thomas, and son, Thomas Jr., are in the thoughts and prayers of everyone. The ODU women’s basketball program is better today because Nikki and her family were here in Norfolk, contributing in so many ways.
McCray-Penson coached the Monarchs to a 53-40 record over three seasons. In the 2019-20 season, under McCray-Penson’s leadership, ODU secured a place in the NCAA Tournament with a record of 24-6.
ODU women’s basketball head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones said, “I am saddened to hear about the passing of my former teammate and friend, Nikki McCray-Penson. Nikki fought bravely on and off the court for others and her legacy will endure. She was a tremendous person, teammate, coach, and advocate for women’s basketball. She will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.”
After a disappointing start of 8-23 in her first season in 2017-18, McCray-Penson made a turnaround as the Monarchs achieved a 21-11 record and secured a bid for the WNIT.
After the 2019-20 season, McCray-Penson accepted the head coaching position at Mississippi State. Before stepping down due to health reasons, she coached the Bulldogs for one season. She returned to coaching for the 2022-23 season and completed her first season as an assistant coach at Rutgers.
Nikki McCray: A Trailblazer in Women’s Basketball
Regarding legendary figures in women’s basketball, Nikki McCray’s name shines brightly. With a remarkable career as a player and coach, McCray has left an indelible mark on the sport. Her dedication, skill, and passion have inspired countless athletes and transformed the landscape of women’s basketball.
Nikki McCray: A Trailblazer in Women’s Basketball | The Inspiring Journey of a Legend
Discover the incredible journey of Nikki McCray, a basketball icon who revolutionized women’s basketball. From her college success to her WNBA stardom and coaching career, McCray’s inspiring story is one of determination and passion. Learn how she left an indelible mark on the sport and continues to inspire future generations of athletes.
Born on December 17, 1971, in Collierville, Tennessee, McCray’s love for the game developed at an early age. As a high school standout, her exceptional talent caught the attention of college scouts. Eventually, she chose to attend the University of Tennessee, where she would make her mark on the basketball court.
During her collegiate career, McCray played under the legendary coach Pat Summitt, who recognized her potential from the start. As a Lady Vol, McCray became known for her tenacity, scoring ability, and defensive prowess. She played a pivotal role in leading the team to three consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances from 1995 to 1997. McCray’s stellar performances earned her numerous accolades, including two consecutive Naismith College Player of the Year awards in 1995 and 1996.
After graduating from college, McCray took her talents to the professional level. In 1996, she was selected as the fourth overall pick in the inaugural season of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) by the Washington Mystics. Her impact was immediate, and she quickly established herself as one of the league’s premier shooting guards.
Throughout her playing career, McCray’s versatility and intensity on the court were unmatched. She was a force to be reckoned with on both ends, consistently contributing to her team’s success. In 1998, she was named to the All-WNBA First Team, solidifying her status as one of the league’s elite players.
In addition to her accomplishments as a player, McCray transitioned seamlessly into coaching after retiring. She began her coaching career at Western Kentucky University as an assistant coach and later served as an associate head coach at the University of South Carolina. McCray’s expertise, leadership, and ability to connect with players allowed her to excel in her new role.
McCray’s journey is a testament to her dedication and resilience. She overcame personal obstacles and maintained a fierce determination to succeed. Her unwavering commitment to the game has made her an inspiration to aspiring basketball players, especially young women who strive to make their mark in sports.
In 2021, McCray received a well-deserved honor when she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. This recognition solidified her legacy as one of the game’s all-time greats and further highlighted her contributions to women’s basketball.
Off the court, McCray continues to be an advocate for women’s empowerment and equality in sports. She uses her platform to uplift and inspire others, emphasizing the importance of hard work, perseverance, and self-belief.
As we reflect on Nikki McCray’s remarkable career, it is evident that she has left an indelible mark on women’s basketball. Her accomplishments as a player and coach have paved the way for future generations, breaking barriers and shattering stereotypes along the way. McCray’s impact extends far beyond the court, as she continues to be a role model for aspiring athletes everywhere.
Nikki McCray: A Basketball Legend Who Left Her Mark on the Game
Nikki McCray was a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court. She was a two-time SEC Player of the Year at Tennessee, a three-time WNBA All-Star, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. She was also a shutdown defender who was known for her ability to guard the best players in the world.
McCray’s basketball career began at Collierville High School in Tennessee. She was a two-time state champion and was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 1991. She then went on to play college basketball at Tennessee, where she was a four-year starter and helped the Lady Vols win three national championships.
After college, McCray was drafted by the Washington Mystics in the first round of the 1998 WNBA draft. She played nine seasons in the WNBA, averaging 14.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. She was named to three All-Star teams and was a WNBA All-Defensive First Team member in 2000.
In addition to her success in the WNBA, McCray also had a successful international career. She was a member of the USA Basketball team that won gold medals at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics and the 1998 FIBA World Championship.
After retiring from playing, McCray went into coaching. She was an assistant coach at South Carolina from 2008 to 2017 and then served as the head coach at Old Dominion and Mississippi State. She is currently an assistant coach at Rutgers.
McCray is a true basketball legend. She was a dominant player on both the college and professional levels, and she was a key member of two Olympic gold medal teams. She is also a respected coach who is known for her ability to develop players.
McCray’s legacy will continue to live on in the game of basketball. She was a pioneer for women’s basketball, and she helped to pave the way for future generations of players. She was a fierce competitor and a talented player, but she was also a humble and gracious person. She will be remembered as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.