Her coaching tenure began in 2006 ... when she was hired to be an assistant on Western Kentucky's staff. She later became a head coach for Old Dominion, where she won C-USA Coach of the Year in 2019-2020. She then had a stint as Mississippi State's head coach ... before she began her career at Rutgers in 2022.
McCray-Penson also had a significant impact off the court ... she was selected by Bill Clintonto be a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. She was also picked by the Library of Congress as a speaker for the Women's History Month Address in 1999.
News of the death has rocked the basketball world ... with many stars remembering her fondly after learning of her passing.
"Nikki McCray : Sweet person and cold hooper!," ex-NBA star Chris Webber wrote. "Rest in Peace."
Added Dick Vitale, "I am so heartbroken hearing this news a few minutes ago about Nikki McCray - Penson . Loved everything about Nikki - she was a Hall of Famer as a player & as a person . May Nikki RIP."
Lady Vols senior Rickea Jackson, who played under McCray-Penson at Mississippi St., also tweeted her condolences to the McCray-Penson family.
My heart is so heavy💔. One of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever met. The one who genuinely went out their way to understand me when I was so misunderstood. The one who was always there. You fought so long and hard and I am so grateful to have known you. I love you. Rest easy pic.twitter.com/qntsFVUE0M