WACO, Texas — Legendary coach Kim Mulkey shocked the women’s basketball world when she surprisingly left her post at Baylor University in late April after 21 years at the school to become the next women’s basketball coach at LSU in her native Louisiana.
Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for one of the most premier women’s programs in the country to find a replacement.
Last Monday, Baylor announced that current Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Taggart Collen would become the next head coach of the Lady Bears.
She was officially be introduced in an introductory press conference Wednesday at the team’s arena.
Collen is a 1993 graduate of Platteville High School and the daughter of Rick and Linda Taggart, formerly of Platteville.
“I am thrilled to be the head coach at Baylor University,” Collen said in a statement. “I believe it is the top job in the country for women’s basketball. I am excited to begin working with this extremely talented team and I am grateful for the unwavering support of President Livingstone and Mack Rhoades. The success of this program speaks for itself, and I will begin working today to ensure Baylor women’s basketball continues to be a program that excels at the highest levels.”
Baylor has been a pillar of success the past two decades under Mulky.
She compiled a 632–103 (.860) overall record during her 21 seasons in Waco, while guiding the Lady Bears to 17 straight NCAA Tournament appearances (advancing to at least the Sweet 16 in 15 of those years), four Final Fours and three national championships in 2005, 2012 and most recently in 2019. Baylor went 28–3 this season and advanced to the Elite Eight.
The Lady Bears have also won 11 straight Big 12 Conference titles, compiling a 187–9 (.954) record in league play during that span.
Collen leaves the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, where she has served as head coach for the past three seasons.
She led the Dream to a 38–52 mark in those three seasons, including a 23–11 record and a berth in the WNBA semifinals in 2018, when Collen was named the WNBA Coach of the Year.
WNBA training camps for the 2021 season began just over a week ago, opening day is less than two weeks away, and Collen’s departure leaves the Dream without a head coach. It’s worth noting they also don’t have a GM or team president after firing Chris Sienko last month.
Following the announcement of Collen’s departure for Baylor, the Dream released a statement thanking Collen and announcing Mike Petersen as interim head coach.
“We are grateful to Nicki Collen for her hard work coaching the Dream over the past three years,” the statement read. “We wish her great success at Baylor University. At this time, we are thrilled to announce the promotion of Mike Petersen from assistant coach to interim head coach, who will work closely with assistant coach Darius Taylor. They are invaluable members of the Atlanta Dream family, and we look forward to their leadership of the team this season.”
Collen was assistant coach with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun for two seasons prior to becoming the Dream’s head coach.
Under head coach Curt Miller, the Sun compiled an impressive 21–13 record in 2017 and finished with the fourth-best regular season record in the WNBA, earning the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 2012.
Collen helped Connecticut, who lost former No. 1 pick Chiney Ogwumike to injury prior to the 2017 season, improve on a 14–20 record in 2016 and helped Miller to earning the 2017 WNBA Coach of the Year award.
Prior to her stint in Connecticut, Collen was an college assistant coach at Florida Gulf Coast, Arkansas, Louisville, Ball State and Colorado State.
Collen was a four-year all-conference point guard and three-time all-area pick at Platteville High School. She scored a then school record 1,381 career points and averaged 17 points, 10 assists and five steals per game as a senior to earn co-SWAL I Most Valuable Player honors. She was named second-team all-state as a junior and senior, and was also an academic all-state honoree and a 4.0 student.
Collen earned a scholarship to Purdue University, but transferred after her sophomore season and finished her career at Marquette University, where led the team to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. She earned all conference honors while at Marquette and was ranked third nationally in assists during her senior season. After her college career, Collen played one year of professional basketball in Greece with BCM Alexandro.