— Sports

Petersen surprised to land new role as Dream interim coach

ATLANTA (AP) – Mike Petersen’s day planner for Monday was missing an important detail. “At no point on yesterday’s date was written in ‘become an interim coach of the Atlanta Dream,’” Petersen said Tuesday.

Indeed, with the Dream’s May 14 opening game against Connecticut less than two weeks away, no one suspected coach Nicki Collen was about to be named Baylor’s coach. Peterson said he and Collen’s other assistant, Darius Taylor, were as surprised as anyone to learn Collen was leaving.

“Darius and I found out Nicki was as involved as she was yesterday morning before practice, frankly,” Petersen said. Petersen had his new title as interim coach after a series of Zoom calls with the new ownership group.

It is the latest development in a year of dramatic changes for the Dream.

Collen’s departure comes less than two weeks after the firing of Dream president and general manager Chris Sienko. In February, real estate investor Larry Gottesdiener was approved as the majority owner in a group that includes former Dream guard Renee Montgomery. Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler was pressured to sell her share of the team after angered WNBA players with her opposition to the league’s racial justice initiatives.

Petersen, 63, had served on Collen’s staff in Atlanta since 2017. He is the former coach at North Texas, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, New Mexico State, and TCU. He said he hopes to provide players “with the best structure and guidance, so they know the expectations.”


Despite all the recent upheaval in the team’s ownership, front office, and coaching staff, Petersen doesn’t believe stability is an issue. “No, I don’t think so,” Petersen said, adding, “The best teams and the best athletes operate and insulate themselves from distractions. … So this group has been frankly very good at being focused on their teammates, the process, and the work at hand.”

He said players and staff were “just thrilled” for Collen.

“Baylor is getting a great coach, and it’s a great opportunity for Nicki,” he said.seasons after setting a franchise record with 23 wins in 2018. Rookie guard Chennedy Carter led the team with 17.4 points per game last season. Last month, the Dream selected 5-foot-6 guard Aari McDonald from Arizona with the No. 3 pick of the WNBA draft.

Petersen said he expects this team could mirror the progress of the 2018 squad, which finished strong to advance to the semifinals of the playoffs.

“I think this is a team that will be much, much better in August than they are in June,” he said, adding the transition from Collen won’t be dramatic.

“Nicki always involved Darius and me a lot in practice, in-game preparation, and in the game, so our players are very used to hearing our voices,” Petersen said. “That won’t be a huge change at all.”

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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