Former Bulldog Head Coach Nikki McCray-Penson Passes Away

he Mississippi State family mourns the loss of former women’s basketball head coach Nikki McCray-Penson. She was 51.
“Mississippi State University joins the national college basketball community in mourning the sudden passing of Coach Nikki McCray-Penson last night,” MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum said. “I came to admire Nikki’s courage and her commitment to her players and this university while she endured significant health challenges during her tenure as our women’s basketball coach. While at Mississippi State, Coach McCray-Penson did her absolute best to advance this university and the State of Mississippi. My wife, Rhonda, and I are deeply saddened by her death and are praying for her family and friends.”
McCray-Penson, a loving wife and mother, was one of the most remarkable women’s basketball players the sport has ever seen. Before being named the head coach at Mississippi State in 2020, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 following a professional career that saw her win two Olympic Gold Medals in 1996 and 2000, play nine seasons in the WNBA with three All-Star appearances, win the 1997 ABL Championship while being named the ABL MVP.
A native of Collierville, Tenn., McCray-Pension starred at the University of Tennessee for the legendary Pat Summit. She was a two-time SEC Player of the Year honoree (1994 & 1995) and was a two-time Kodak All-American. She also helped lead Pat Summit’s Lady Vols squad to two SEC Tournament Championships and the 1992 NCAA National Title.
“It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the passing of Nikki McCray-Penson,” head coach Sam Purcell said. “She was an incredible basketball coach and a true leader of women, but more importantly, she was a loving Mother and Wife. Nikki and her family will continue to be in our hearts and in our prayers.”
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