Nicki Collen was preparing for the upcoming WNBA season as the head coach of the Atlanta Dream when Kim Mulkey decided to leave Baylor for LSU. Collen had no intention of leaving Atlanta, but within a matter of days, she was being introduced as Baylor’s next women’s basketball coach.
It was an offer Collen felt she couldn’t turn down. And it was a conversation with Baylor men’s basketball head coach Scott Drew the night before signing her contract that convinced Collen she was making the right decision.
“At the end of the conversation, he asked if he could pray over me, and it was at that moment that I knew this is the right place for me, it’s the right place for my family,” Collen said Wednesday in her introductory press conference.
Before she took the stage, university president Linda Livingstone and athletic director Mack Rhoades spoke about what made Collen an appealing candidate.
“Her deep faith commitment, her commitment to being at a place like Baylor, where we take our Christian commitment and our Christian values so seriously, it was very clear she was absolutely the right person to step in and take an elite program to the next level while also developing our players into outstanding young women,” Livingstone said.
Rhoades referenced a book called “Two Chairs” written by Bob Oden. The main idea of the book is that every morning there are two chairs: one for you and one for Jesus.
“I really believe that throughout this search, we had seven chairs, five for the search committee, one for the candidate and one for Jesus and I’m thankful to Him for the way He led us through this search,” Rhoades said.
When it was her turn to speak, Collen highlighted Baylor’s emphasis on spiritual development as one of the main reasons she wanted the job. She said that while faith was part of her life growing up, she didn’t vocalize it until her sister was diagnosed with cancer.
Collen’s sister asked her to serve as a spiritual counselor, and the two shared passages of Scripture every day. After her sister passed away seven years ago, Collen made a point of continuing to share her faith.
“When I lost her, I said, ‘I’m never going to stop doing that,'” Collen said. “‘I’m never going to stop sharing the Word.'”
HOME 💚💛 https://t.co/0YD5in8dbR
— Nicki Collen (@NickiCollen) May 4, 2021
Collen was an assistant coach at five different college programs before making the jump to the WNBA in 2015. She spent three years as an assistant with the Connecticut Sun and was named the Dream’s head coach prior to the 2018 season.
Collen led the Dream to a franchise-best 23-11 record in 2018, finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference and earning WNBA Coach of the Year honors. Atlanta went 7-15 in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Returning to the college game gives Collen a chance to serve as a mentor for her players as they transition into adulthood, which is a responsibility she enjoys.
“If there was anything I missed when I was in the pros, it was the mentorship component,” Collen said. “It was really affecting young people’s lives.”
In her remarks, Collen revealed one more source of confirmation that made her sure she belongs in Waco: The day she signed her contract was her late sister’s birthday.
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