— Sports

Collen ‘going to be me’ taking over Baylor women’s program

Nicki Collen knows she has taken a different, more meandering path than many coaches. The latest step to becoming coach of three-time national champion Baylor happened quickly. “It hasn’t been an even staircase to the top,” Collen said Wednesday. “But I have a lot of experience, I have a lot of life experience, and so I bring different things to the table. I’m a mom, a wife; I’m all those things all the time. And I’m also at a point where I’m comfortable with who I am.”

Collen was preparing for their fourth season as head coach of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, even leading them through practice Monday before being named that night as the new coach for the Baylor program that Kim Mulkey built into a national power the past 21 years before returning to her home state as LSU’s coach. Baylor won national titles in 2005, 2012, and 2019 and has been the Big 12 regular-season champion for the past 11 seasons.

“I’m not trying to be somebody I’m not, and I’m not going to try to be Kim Mulkey,” Collen said before her formal introduction on the campus in Waco, Texas. “I’m just going to be me. And I’m not saying that makes it easy. I’m not saying that’s necessarily the right formula, but it’s my right formula.”

It is the first college head coaching job for the 45-year-old Collen, who was previously an assistant at Colorado State, Ball State, Louisville, Arkansas, and Florida Gulf Coast. Three of those stops were on her husband’s staff, Tom, and she took a seven-year break from coaching when they started a family. Their three children are now all teenagers.

Baylor women's

Collen said the current players are her priority at Baylor and that her job right now is to re-recruit those who can return to a 28-3 team that made it to an NCAA regional final. They had their first meeting Tuesday.

There are four potential returning starters, led by All-American forward Alyssa Smith. The others are 6-foot-3 center Queen Egbo and guards Moon Ursin and Trinity Oliver. The Lady Bears also have some key reserves, including forwarding Caitlin Bickle, and last month signed Alabama point guard Jordan Lewis as a graduate transfer after she started 130 games the past four seasons for the Crimson Tide.

“I feel good about where we’re headed that way, but they still have to make the right decision for them,” Collen said. “I want them to feel good about me. I want them to feel good about where we’re headed and how it works for them. So, you know, there won’t be much pressure on me.” Smith replied to Baylor’s tweet this week welcoming Collen with, “Time to get to work!” Egbo tweeted “New Beginning,” followed by hearts of green and gold, the school’s colors.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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