Q&A with Nicki Collen
Coach Nicki Collen of the Atlanta Dream basketball team has made an incredible impression on the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). She started her career playing basketball at Purdue University. After college, she played professional basketball in Greece for a short period of time.
Her coaching career began as an assistant basketball coach at Colorado State. She eventually moved on to coach under Curt Miller with the Connecticut Sun. Collen helped the Sun turn around from a 14-20 finish in 2016 to a 21-13 record in 2017.
In 2017, Collen was announced as the head coach of the Atlanta Dream, taking over for Michael Cooper. Just a year later, in August of 2018, Collen was selected as the WNBA Coach of the Year. Read more about Coach Collen and her journey below!
What does your daily routine look like?
My daily routine starts at about 6:30 a.m. I shower then have breakfast, which typically consists of a protein pancake or smoothie and some athletic greens. I attend an 8:30 a.m. pre-practice staff meeting, followed by practice at 10:00 a.m. After practice, I handle office work and get in an afternoon workout, have dinner, and watch film work on my team and our opponents to plan the next day’s practice. I close out my day with some family time by watching Netflix or talking
with my family.
What is your fondest memory as a coach?
One of my fondest memories as a coach was beating Tennessee at Thompson Boling Arena when Pat Summit was still the coach and I was the assistant at Arkansas. It was Arkansas’s first-ever win at Tennessee.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
For my pre-game ritual, I like to get a hard workout in before choosing my dress and shoes for the game. I also enjoy a very long shower. During the National Anthem, I pray for the health of my players and my ability to lead them in a positive way.
How do you channel your frustration during a game?
I focus on the next play. If I lose my cool, my team can feel it. I have to provide the calm to keep the team focused as the game goes along, though I’m not as cool as I appear on the sideline.
What was the most important game you’ve coached? Why?
The most important game I ever coached was my son’s soccer games when he was age four and just beginning to love playing sports. I was often dragging along his twin sister and a baby, but this was the start of his love for sports, competition, and having fun while doing so.
What are some ways you celebrate winning a game?
I don’t do much to celebrate after winning a game. Usually, I just grab food with my staff and/or family, but we are always preparing for our next opponent.
As a leader in women’s sports, does that push you to be more outspoken for women’s rights like equal pay?
Yes, I care deeply about women having a voice in today’s landscape of athletics and business. This is a unique time in history when women are standing up and they are being heard. I am extremely passionate about understanding the business of basketball, and more specifically, the WNBA.
What helps you recover after losing a game?
I am not a friendly human being when we lose. I channel our losses into watching game footage and finding ways to improve or prepare better for our next opponent. Typically, I am back to my normal self by the start of practice the following day after losing. Preparing for upcoming games gives me a great deal of peace.
What advice has any coach/mentor given you that you’ll always remember?
My husband, who coached for 35 years, shared with me that while coaching women’s sports, you have to understand the difference between allowing a molehill to become a mountain and turning a molehill into a mountain. Basically, there is a time to address things, and it’s not always immediately. Sometimes letting things blow over is better than addressing them and creating an even bigger issue. Knowing the difference is so important in coaching.
You started out wanting to be a tennis player. Do you still play tennis at all?
I do not play tennis, but I love to work out with weights, doing interval training, or walking. I will play some lax (lacrosse) with my kids.
Are your daughters interested in playing basketball?
My oldest daughter does not play basketball and has very little interest in the game. My youngest daughter plays tennis and lacrosse and is interested in giving basketball a try. She is very invested in my team and the WNBA in general.
Georgia’s Own and Ne[x]t Magazine are all about helping our members make smart financial decisions. Any tips or tricks you’d like to share with our readers?
Save, save, save! I have been lucky to never live on a hard budget, but having said that, I have saved money from every single paycheck I have ever made. Pay yourself. Utilize your 401k and company-match plans.
Just for fun—what’s something many people might not know about you?
I love peanut butter, coffee, roller coasters, shoes, fashion, and I am terrible at bowling. I say, I am 44 going on 14.