She replaces Kim Mulkey, who left after last week become the trainer of the LSU. Current Atlanta assistant Mike Petersen takes over the position of interim coach for Dream, which begins its season on May 14th.
“Nicki is a passionate young woman leader and an elite basketball head and instructor of the game,” Baylor sporting director Mack Rhoades said in a statement of excellence on and off the pitch. Nicki’s work experience will be invaluable in developing players for the next level. Your addition supports our commitment to the women’s basketball program at the highest level. “
Collen became the Dream’s head coach prior to the 2018 season and went between 38 and 52 in her three years at Atlanta. Her best season was her first when the Dream ended between 23 and 11 in 2018 and made it to the WNBA semi-finals.
Prior to her time with the Dream, Collen was an assistant to the for two WNBA seasons Connecticut Sun..
Collen, who turns 46 on May 13, was a college assistant before joining the WNBA and working on the Florida Gulf Coast, Arkansas, Louisville, Ball State, and Colorado State. She worked with her husband Tom Collen in Arkansas, Louisville, and Colorado State when he was the head coach at those schools. She played collegially at Purdue and Marquette.
“I’m thrilled to be the head coach at Baylor University. I think it’s the best job for women in basketball in the country,” said Collen. “I am very much looking forward to working with this extremely talented team and I am grateful for the president’s unwavering support [Linda] Livingstone and Mack Rhoades. The success of this program speaks for itself and I will start today by ensuring that Baylor women’s basketball continues to be a program that excels at the highest levels. “
Baylor’s aspiring senior NaLyssa Smith, the 2021 Wade Trophy winner and # 1 on ESPN.com’s list of the 25 best players for next season, tweeted in response to Pollen’s attitude: “Time to get to work!”
Time to get to work! 💫💫💫 https://t.co/5Ag0UmNYKh
– # 1 (@NaLyssaSmith) May 3, 2021
Collen is expected to speak to the media on Tuesday.
The dream went 7-15 during the WNBA season in the Bubble in Bradenton, Florida. It was a challenging time for Atlanta as the players disagreed with then-Dream co-owner and U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler on several points, including her comments on the WNBA’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
WNBA players supported Loeffler’s opponent in the US Senate race in Georgia, Raphael Warnock, which won a runoff election on January 5.
In February, the Dream franchise was sold to a group of three led by real estate investor Larry Gottesdiener, who is now the team’s majority owner. Suzanne Abair, president of Northland Investment Corp., and former WNBA player Renee Montgomery are the other two investors.
On April 21, the Dream fired President and General Manager Chris Sienko. The move came just six days after the WNBA draft.
Dream Center Kalani Brown, a Baylor alum who was a key part of the Lady Bears 2019 title team, responded to Monday’s news on Twitter“You’re going to blow me up … Please, I’m just as shocked as you are.”
You’re going to blow me up … Please, I’m just as shocked as you 😩🤷🏾♀️
– 𝐋𝐀𝐍𝐈. (@ kalanibrown21) May 3, 2021
Petersen joined the Dream staff shortly after hiring Collen in late 2017. Previously, he was the head coach and college-level assistant for both women’s and men’s basketball for many years. This included eight seasons running the Wake Forest women’s program. He also served as the head coach for the Gonzaga, New Mexico State, TCU, and North Texas women’s programs and assistant to the Oregon women’s teams and Minnesota men’s teams.
“We are grateful to Nicki Collen for her hard work as trainer of the dream over the past three years. We wish her every success at Baylor University,” the dream said in a statement. “At this time, we are pleased to announce the promotion of Mike Petersen from Assistant Manager to Interim Head Coach who will work closely with Assistant Manager Darius Taylor. You are invaluable members of the Atlanta Dream family and look forward to their leadership of the team this season. “
Baylor won three NCAA titles under Mulkey (2005, 2012 and 2019) and a total of 23 Big 12 titles between the regular season and the league tournament. Mulkey was 632-104 as Baylor’s head coach from 2000 to 2021.