The Bulldogs get a coach with a rich pedigree in hoops
Mississippi State has hired Old Dominion coach Nikki McCray as its new head coach, replacing Vic Schaefer at the helm of a talented Bulldog program, according to Ben Portnoy of The Dispatch.
In the last three seasons, McCray lifted ODU. Before the cancellation of this year’s tournament, the Monarchs were on pace to make its first NCAA tournament since 2008.
The Monarchs (24-6, 14-4 CUSA) were in the “last four in” in both High Post Hoops and Charlie Creme’s final brackets after a remarkable season that included ODU’s first win over a Power 5 opponent since 2015. That team was Auburn. The Monarchs also snapped Rice’s 30-game conference win streak and earned votes in the AP Top 25. McCray was named Conference USA Coach of the Year.
McCray is familiar with the SEC. McCray was an assistant coach for the South Carolina Gamecocks from 2008 to 2017, and won the 2017 NCAA championship with the team. From 1991 to 1995, she played at the University of Tennessee under Pat Summitt.
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When speaking on the job McCray has done with the Monarchs, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said she wasn’t surprised.
“I always knew Nikki was a great coach. I think she was known as a great recruiter, but people didn’t really see the amount of time that she puts into the X’s and O’s,” Staley said. “She really thinks about it. She watches a lot of film. She’s always got great ideas. I mean, I wasn’t surprised.”
Mississippi State and South Carolina have emerged as SEC rivals over the last five seasons.
McCray will replace Schaefer, who Texas hired Sunday to replace Karen Aston, whose contract expires later this year.
Since 2012, Schaefer built Mississippi State into a national contender and powerhouse within the SEC.
The season before he took over at Mississippi State, the school went 14-16 (4-12 SEC) but Schaefer maintained a 221–62 record. Under his helm, the Bulldogs have made two national championship appearances, have multiple All-Americans and have as cemented his teams’ place in Mississippi State, SEC and NCAA history.
In the last few years, State and the South Carolina Gamecocks have emerged as rivals, and the two schools played in three consecutive SEC tournament championship games before the Bulldogs won their first title in 2019.
This season, Mississippi State compiled a 27-6 (13-3) record, led by a young core. Freshman Rickea Jackson averaged 15.1 points and 5.1 rebounds and sophomore Jessika Carter, 13 points and 8.7 rebounds.
Next season, pending any more transfers, Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Sidney Cooks and Yemiyah Morris would be the team’s three seniors. Since the announcement of Schaefer’s departure, junior Chloe Bibby has entered the transfer portal. Fifth-year guard Jordan Danberry has run out of eligibility.