Longtime Dawn Staley assistant steps down as Mississippi State coach

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Nikki McCray-Penson, a former South Carolina women’s basketball assistant from 2008-17, resigned from her head coaching job at Mississippi State on Tuesday, according to a release from MSU.

McCray-Penson said she stepped away from the Bulldogs’ program to focus on her health.

“Over the past several weeks, I have been faced again with health concerns I had hoped were behind me,” McCray-Penson said in the release. “In light of these developments, I have decided to step away from coaching in order to devote my full time and energy to addressing those issues. Although I look forward to returning to coaching when I am able, I believe this is the best decision for me and my family at this time. I appreciate the support MSU has shown me, and I will be pulling for the team’s success this season.”

McCray-Penson was a longtime assistant to Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley, joining in May 2008. She was part of four South Carolina Sweet 16 appearances, the Gamecocks’ first NCAA Final Four in 2015 and the 2017 national championship win.

McCray-Penson and Staley have been longtime friends and twice represented Team USA together as teammates. When McCray-Penson made the move from Old Dominion to replace Vic Schaefer as Mississippi State head coach in 2020, Staley had glowing remarks for her.

“We had nothing at South Carolina,” Staley said in April 2020. “The cupboards are bare at South Carolina. It’s not bare at Mississippi State. It comes with a different kind of pressure. Vic built a national powerhouse, so she’s got to make sure that she keeps those fans happy by winning. She’ll do that. She’ll make the people in Starkville happy.”

In her single season at Mississippi State, McCray-Penson finished with a 10-9 (5-7 SEC) record, finishing ninth in the conference.

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