April 25, 2014
University of Minnesota head women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings today announced the hiring of 23-year coaching veteran Nikita (Niki) Dawkins as the first member of her coaching staff. A four-time Gold medalist with USA Basketball, Dawkins will serve as the Golden Gophers’ assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
Dawkins held the same position under Stollings for two seasons at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where she played a significant role in orchestrating one of the largest turnarounds in the nation last season and helped assemble a six-player recruiting class that ranked 38th nationally and third-highest among non-BCS programs.
“It is such a privilege to add one of the most decorated Big Ten performers in history to the Golden Gopher program,” Stollings said. “Coach Nik is an experienced, innovative and relentless recruiter with an outstanding basketball mind and is, without a doubt, one of the top assistants in the country. She will have an immediate impact on our ability to attract top talent and her exceptional capability to interact with student-athletes will be immeasurable.”
No stranger to the Big Ten Conference, Dawkins served as an assistant coach at Michigan as well as her alma mater, Ohio State. One of the most influential African-American athletes to play at Ohio State, Dawkins helped the Buckeyes to three Big Ten Championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances from 1985-89. During her playing career, she earned Kodak All-America First Team and Street & Smith All-America First Team honors, Chicago Tribune Player of the Year recognition, All-Big Ten First Team accolades and was named the Scarlet and Gray Player of the Year. She is a member of the Big Ten 1980 All-Decade Second Team, the Ohio State All-Century Team and was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000.
Dawkins would go on to win four gold medals, three as a player and one as a coach, with USA Basketball. In 2002, she was an assistant with the U.S. 20-and-Under squad, which included former Gopher Lindsay Whalen, that won the gold medal at the COPABA Young Women’s World Championships in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil. During her collegiate days, Dawkins was a member of two USA Select Teams (1988 & 1990), the World University Team (1989) and the Junior National Team (1987).
“I am truly honored to continue working with Coach Marlene at the University of Minnesota and in the Big Ten, which is arguably the best conference in women's basketball,” Dawkins said. “These last three seasons, Coach Marlene has proven to the basketball world that she is one of the brightest young minds in the game today. To say that I am extremely excited about being a part of her Golden Gopher staff and a tremendous University in Minnesota is an understatement and I can’t wait to help her realize her vision of taking the women’s basketball program to national prominence.”
Dawkins brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Gophers, with her teams participating in five NCAA Tournaments and winning five league championships. She has coached five WNBA players during her career, including Katie Smith, who is a seven-time WNBA All-Star and was named one of the top-15 players in WNBA history.
Prior to joining Stollings’ staff at VCU, Dawkins spent seven seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Old Dominion University under legendary head coach Wendy Larry. Dawkins helped the Lady Monarchs to a 158-67 overall mark, four CAA Tournament titles and four NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the Sweet 16 in 2008.
She graduated from Ohio State in 1989 with a degree in economics. Following her graduation, she spent one year abroad playing professionally for the Italmeco Bari Club in Bari, Italy.
Dawkins and her husband, Tony, a men’s college and WNBA official, gave birth to twin girl and boy babies, Amani and Isiah, on Sept. 14, 2011.
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