Nikki McCray-Penson, a former WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is dead at age 51. Check out her Cause of death here.
Nikki McCray : Death | Cause of death | Net worth
McCray was an assistant coach at University of South Carolina. She made a new home for herself at the University of South Carolina with a former teammate as head coach, Dawn Staley.
Staley said about McCray: “Nikki is hungry for success, and that comes from playing at Tennessee where the coach never settles for anything less than being number one at whatever she’s doing. That mentality is instilled in Nikki, and I want people around me like that.
She is energetic, confident and engaging – all qualities that you need when you’re coaching and recruiting. We spent two Olympic Games together and have shared being successful in the very best arena there is to test yourself.”
She resigned as head coach at Mississippi State in October, 2021 citing health reasons.
Nikki McCray death
Two-time Olympic gold-medalist and former Tennessee star Nikki McCray-Penson has died. She was 51.
McCray-Penson was an assistant women’s basketball coach at Rutgers last season and the school on Friday confirmed her death.
She joined coach Dawn Staley as an assistant at South Carolina from 2008-17. She was part of the Gamecocks’ first national championship in 2017. They were gold-medal teammates at the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“It’s hard to think about Nikki’s passing because all I can see is how fully she lived,” Staley said in a statement. “From her days as a brash rookie in USA Basketball to becoming my friend and colleague to the way she mentored young players, Nikki did everything with her whole heart. … she had such light, such positive energy inside her no matter what was going on. I am heartbroken that cancer has taken that light from us, but I know that she would want us to be the ones to carry it on in her absence.”
McCray-Penson played at Tennessee from 1991-95 under Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt. The point guard was a two-time SEC Player of the Year and a two-time Kodak All-America standout during her junior and senior seasons for the Lady Vols. The team reached the Final Four in 1995, losing in the championship game to undefeated Connecticut.
The 1996 U.S. Olympic team sparked the formation of the WNBA and ABL (American Basketball League 1996-98). She won MVP honors in 1997 while leading the ABL’s Columbus Quest to a championship before heading over to the WNBA. McCray-Penson was a three-time All-Star in that league while playing for the Washington Mystics.
Nikki McCray Cause of death
According to The State, Robert Penson, McCray-Penson’s cousin, confirmed that she died during the night due to secondary complications related to breast cancer.
McCray-Penson had a long, storied career both in the American Basketball League and the WNBA.
McCray-Penson had been serving as an assistant coach for the Scarlet Knights women’s basketball team since 2022 after stepping down as head coach of Mississippi State due to health reasons.
During her standout collegiate playing career at Tennessee from 1991 to 1995, the two-time All-American point guard earned SEC Player of the Year honors twice, as a junior and senior. She helped lead Pat Summit’s teams to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the Final Four in 1995, as the Lady Vols compiled a 122-11 record during her career.
McCray-Penson went on to play nine seasons in the WNBA, where she garnered three All-Star nods with the Washington Mystics and finished her career with 2,550 points while averaging 14.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. On the international stage, McCray-Penson won two gold medals with Team USA at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics and another at the 1998 World Cup.
The Collierville, Tenn., native later rejoined her former Olympic teammate Dawn Staley as an assistant coach at South Carolina. She worked there from 2008 to 2017 and was part of the staff that led the Gamecocks to their first national championship in school history.
McCray-Penson’s success there was a launching pad for future head coach opportunities at Old Dominion — where she was named 2020 C-USA Coach of the Year — and Mississippi State.
McCray-Penson started her career with the Columbus Quest of the America Basketball League, where her contract was estimated to be $125,000 a season.
When she switched to the WNBA, she became one of the faces of the league and her team, the Washington Mystics.
As a designated marquee player, her WNBA contract was estimated to be above $200,000. The new WNBA marketing machine got behind her appeal, and she got several endorsement deals.
Her biggest endorsement deal was with FILA, reported to be north of $1,000,000.
When she was hired as head coach of Mississippi State in 2020, her contract details were released. Her base compensation was $750,000 a year, and she made $250,000 yearly as head coach of Old Dominion before that.
Her exact net worth information afterward is not readily available.