Caldwell named coach at UCLA, leaves void at UT

Tennessee assistant coach Nikki Caldwell, left, and head coach Pat Summitt watch practice during the Final Four on April 5.

Photo by Gerry Broome

Tennessee assistant coach Nikki Caldwell, left, and head coach Pat Summitt watch practice during the Final Four on April 5.

Nikki Caldwell introduced herself as the new women's basketball coach at UCLA Thursday with a timely assist from guard Tierra Henderson.

The former Tennessee assistant coach was describing her coaching philosophy during a Thursday afternoon press conference in Los Angeles when Henderson's cell phone went off.

Caldwell paused for a moment and then continued with "and we won't be having cell phones going off in meetings."

While Caldwell takes charge of her new brood, Tennessee will be trying to find her replacement, someone capable of filling multiple roles.

Both parties have their work to do.

"Tennessee's loss,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said, "is UCLA's gain."

Caldwell received a five-year, $1.4 million deal as her base salary. The negotiations pre-empted Caldwell's return flight to Knoxville after interviewing on Wednesday.

UCLA officials had been talking Wednesday night with Colorado coach Kathy McConnell-Miller, the other final candidate to fill the opening left by Kathy Olivier's resignation. No formal offer apparently was made to McConnell-Miller, who withdrew from consideration.

Caldwell's introduction was sandwiched between UCLA men's basketball players Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook announcing their NBA intentions, giving her a larger media audience.

"Nikki has been a winner as a student-athlete and an assistant coach and is the perfect person to make our program nationally competitive on a regular basis,'' UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said.

Caldwell said that she spoke with Summitt on the ride over to campus before the announcement.

"She was very excited because she knew what my ultimate goal was,'' Caldwell said. "At the same time, she also told me she was going to miss me and I said, 'We can't go there right now. I'm getting ready to go to a press conference right now. I can't mess up my make-up by getting all sentimental right now.' "

The 35-year-old Caldwell, who's from Oak Ridge, was a Tennessee player 1990-94. She began her coaching career as a UT graduate assistant during the 1998-99 season. After three seasons on the coaching staff at Virginia, Caldwell returned to UT, serving as an assistant for six seasons.

"Nikki Caldwell is truly one of the rising stars in women's college basketball,'' Summitt said. "She is the total package ... a teacher, a coach and a recruiter. She is a woman of great character and has a powerful gift of mentoring young women."

Summitt recalled hearing Larry Parker, the father of Lady Vols star Candace Parker, telling his daughter: "You won't find a better role model than Nikki Caldwell."

Summitt won't be looking solely for a recruiter to replace Caldwell, who was the Lady Vols recruiting coordinator. Specialization is a luxury Summitt can't afford.

"I'm looking for the total package,'' Summitt said. "With all of these freshmen coming in, we're talking basketball 101. I need somebody really good on the floor."

Summitt wouldn't discuss candidates. Nor would she set a hiring timetable. She did rule out former assistant Mickie DeMoss. Summitt spoke with DeMoss at the Women's Final Four and said that DeMoss is committed to remaining an assistant at Texas.

There are former Lady Vols either in the coaching ranks or with coaching experience who approximate Caldwell's profile. They include Daedra Charles Furlow, Michelle Marciniak, Nikki McCray, Bridgette Gordon, Semeka Randall and Carla McGhee.

Former Lady Vol Kyra Elzy normally would be considered a viable candidate as well. But her recent move from Kansas to the coaching staff at Kentucky calls into question her availability.

Notebook: Caldwell said that she intends to keep her commitment to the "Cruisin' for a Cause" motorcycle trip to Key West next month. . . . Caldwell also said she wants to keep Tennessee on UCLA's schedule.

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Comments » 52

IdahoVol writes:

Congratulations Coach. Best of luck in building the program (except against the Lady Vols!) and maybe we will see you back here on the bench as the next head coach of the Lady Vols - if you can wait that long for Pat to retire!

volchiq writes:

Congratulations! You will definitely be missed. It will be fun to see you atop the PAC-10.

BTW, Does she get to take the Mercedes?

cgbtn writes:

Nikki, The first two posts are well said. We'll miss you, and you will always be a LADY Vol, regardless of where you may be.

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

I really am proud for her to have earned this opportunity and congratulate her on it.

With that said,,,,,,,,,,,,please stay. It is only money and the headache of having your own program.

superk#226173 writes:

Who will Holly ride with now?

tnqball writes:

Good Luck Nikki!!! You will do great in LaLa land. Now we need to focus on getting Micki DeMoss back.

volchiq writes:

Speaking of Micki, Pat said the other morning on the radio that she thought Micki was at Texas for the long haul. I don't see her coming back.

KnoxVol_in_TX writes:

I graduated Oak Ridge...Cool. Seriously though, congratulations to Nikki. It is a rewarding experience to see her excel like this.

miamiVOL writes:

hopefully see can send some insider documents to Coach Fulmer !

SewaneeVolFan writes:

With all those ex-coaches and ex-players who've become coaches (80-something do I remember?), somehow I doubt that Pat will have a hard time finding the best person for the job. It's going to be a great opportunity for someone.

jively#233064 writes:

It is totally appropriate and desirous for Pat Summitt proteges to spread throughout the country. Best wishes to Head Coach Caldwell!

andefromtn#212139 writes:

First, congratulations Nikki. I hope you have a successful stint at UCLA. Wow, Nikki is the third former LV player to take over a head coaching job this spring. Could we see another former LV on the bench with Pat? Lots of good options out there.

ps11824 writes:

Shucks, I did not want her to go, BUT, I'm happy for her. Great opportunity. Nice salary. Can't wait to play UCLA in the coming season. Look out, Nikki. Who will fill her shoes? How about Michelle Marciniak?

madisonvillevol writes:

how about kelly jolly?

hmhawk writes:

Congrats Miss Nikki.You deserve the step up but deep down I feel they got you cheap.Not meaning to be disparaging(sp) but they are getting a lot for the money.Best wishes and you will be missed.

jasvol writes:

Nikki: fire your agent! That's only $290,000 per year. Is this the going rate for a big time D1 women's program?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

I'd do it for 290k a year until they ran me off.

MillisaAnn writes:

Congrats Nikki!!! You will be missed at TN.

MrBamSeydu writes:

jasvol: Only 290k, good one. I guess you think the women's water polo coach at Virginia Tech should be making 2.1 mil per season too?

brokebackvol writes:

I'm excited for Coach Caldwell, and it further proves the lasting legacy of Pat and the Lady Vols Dynasty.

Hey Pat - get Michelle Marciniak!

ps11824 writes:

Semeka Randall, WOW! Now that would be fun. Do you guys remember what a ball of fire and energy she was? We need a good guards coach for sure. If she can recruit, and she probably can, go get her. She's very charming. I think Charles, McGee and Gordon are too old school for today's athletes.

This is going to be an interesting story to follow. Time's a'wasting.

mmynatt writes:

What is so bad is that Mickey is with one of the most despicable coaches - I hated her at Duke and I hate her at Texas. What a turncoat Mickey is:) (I know -- she needed a job and last year Pat did not have an opening. I am half-kidding; I still appreciate Mickey's contributions to the Lady Vols success, especially the 3peat in the late 90's. But nothing will change my opinion of Ms Gail.)

utvolz#637682 writes:

Appears to be the perfect opportunity to bring Michelle Marciniak back to where she truly belongs!

Frank in Miami

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

Too old for todays athletes? Pat herself isn't a spring chicken 98reaux.

LA has taken Nikki, Candace, and Shannon this year. Good luck to all!

johnlg00 writes:

The 290k/per is only a base salary. There will be other money from camps, media, shoe deals, etc., that will probably boost her total income considerably. You would be surprised how small the basic "salary" is for many coaches pulling in a LOT more in total compensation. For now, that extra income probably won't be a HUGE amount, but she should be able to keep body and soul together, even in LA. We're surely going to miss her!

richvol writes:

Marciniak or Jolly...either would be great additions. Remember though that with the high profile and exposure that comes with this position at Tennessee there should be many choices. Pat should be able to cherry pick from just about anyone in the profession.

I have a feeling she will get someone who brings alot to the table in terms of new ideas, energy and the ability to coach.

rccheek#205272 writes:

AMEN to Michelle Marciniak. I'd love to see her back.

daddyaxe writes:

your the greatest niki...thank you so much and good luck out there

jasvol writes:

yemmusdarb: you can't compare waterpolo coaches' salary to women's D1 basketball at an elite conference! I'm with johnlg00 explanation, I didn't think about adding the extra $ from shoe deals, TV deals etc... (if that is the case). Honestly, I don't keep up with the women's salaries and/or it's not reported as much so I was more interested in knowing the going rate for Women's coaches salaries. Anybody know this?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

If TDTN wasn't doing penance, I would get him to ask Dupree if he'd be interested in sitting on the Lady Vols bench. His insight and orange blazer could be game-changing!

ps11824 writes:

Pat is AGELESS, LV8times, but her assistants who go out and recruit need to be able to relate, don't they? You could put my knowledge in a thimble. I'm just saying. Pat hasn't called or texted me for input as of yet.

juicetke#226846 writes:

Congratulations coach!

Can I get a Kelly Jolly-Harper! Great coach and easy on the eyes.

LadyVolFanForever writes:

Congrats Coach Nikki ! You will be dearly missed by us fans, the players and the other coaches. You will make a great coach and I wish you the best of luck except when you are playing the Lady Vols !

Los Angeles has made quite a Lady Vol haul the past 2 weeks !!!

I hope to see Nikki back as our new head coach when Pat retires !!!!!!!!!!!

superk#226173 writes:


volboy81#211803 writes:

Congratulations Nikki!!! Thanks for all you did at Tennessee. We'll miss you, but best of luck at UCLA! See you in the Rose Bowl on Sept. 1st! :)

utchris writes:

I would not be surprised to see McCray get a stab at this one. She is a candidate for the Memphis job, but it only paid the last coach about 100K so the asst job at UT may be more lucrative. I just see them sticking to an up and coming, younger African American coach that has has a little more relation to some of the younger African American girls that Tennessee recruits. This was the original basis for the hire of Caldwell (not saying that she is not a good coach, bc she is a great one. Only that they wanted someone who could better relate to young African American girls better than say Al Brown did)

anosikefan writes:

Congrats Nikki...I will definitely be following your success at UCLA! Get your experience and come back and take Pat's reigns one day! We love you and wish you the best!

As for who to replace her...I'm sure people all over the country are all over it but who will it be? If I was a betting woman, I'd bet the house that Pat already knows who she wants!

Again...Congrats Nikki...Much deserved!

sharespatsbirthday writes:

Great to see another Lady Vol personality do well. Would love to see Coach DeMoss back where she belongs and wearing TN orange and white. That TX orange just ain't the right color!!

bigbluevol writes:

Kelly Jolly-Harper, last I heard, is a head coach. She's not going to take an assistant's job just becuase it's her alma mater. It would be a great hire, but it's not likely.

juicetke#226846 writes:

Big Blue Vol: Because we all know head coaches don't leave jobs to be an assistant. Oh wait...Dave Clawson.

Western Carolina head coach or Assistant at Tennessee. Not a hard decision.

bigbluevol writes:

juice - Women's basketball is a little different than football. Also, the fact that Clawson moved up a division is another factor. Western is a D 1 program. My point is that unless there's a substantial raise and a possibility that she would succeed Summitt, I don't think she's going to leave.

tenn32rebel writes:

Nikki, sorry to see you go but I'll be here to welcome you back, too!!!

utchris2003, you have a valid point. Nikki was the picture of a successful lady and coach. Her communication skills allowed her the great success she enjoyed on the recruiting circuit.

McCray or Randall would be great possibilities. Semeka has that built in "Meek" legacy which commands initial respect. She was the picture of a hustle player who was tough as nails on the court.

McCray also has some of these points.

anosikefan, I agree with you. I remember when Pat hired Nikki. She was the only official interview. That is nice when practically everybody wants to be on your staff. You just call the one you really want.

Am I mistaken or isn't Univ. of Arizona in the Pac-10? If so, that means two former Lady Vols will be going head-to-head in league play. "Nikki vs. Niya" - Is there another conference with opposing former Lady Vols as head coaches?

Go Lady Vols!!! #9 in '09. Think positive!!!

tenn32rebel writes:

Pat has stated that Kellie won't return to Knoxville as an assistant coach. That statement may have been a smoke screen by Pat but I'll take her word about Kellie. Kellie was really tight with Pat and she shares many of Pat's coaching characteristics and qualities.

Again, we're just talking and Pat probably already knows who she wants.

Go Lady Vols!!! #9 in '09. Think positive!!!

utahvolsfan56 writes:

Congrats to Nikki! I look forward to attending many UCLA games this next season. Nikki has a young team all starters were freshman with a lot of talent. Looks like the championship trophy will be coming to the west coast. As a way of thanking Nikki all of you LV fans should get online and support Nikki and Holly and donate to their cause. Help them reach their goal.

Couchdummy writes:

Who is Dupree?

chinarobert writes:

This puts UCLA and Arizona head to head with Lady Vol coaches! Interesting.

Gigavol writes:

Does she still get to drive the pink BMW with the rainbow sticker for a year out in California?

camoman270#222859 writes:

We Love you Nikki, may you have the best of fortune.....except against the lady vols!!!hehehehehehehehehehhe.
You will always be appreciated for what you have accomplished at the "Summitt"!!!!!

Couchdummy writes:

Question: Why did Mickie DeMoss quit the KY job, and why would we want her back if she would go to TX as an assistant? Something doesn't add up.

juicetke#226846 writes:

There are more d-1 teams in basketball then football so the difference in pay between the bottom teams and the top teams is like changing divisions.

What do you think Pat is going to say? "Kelly wants to come to Tennessee." While she still has a job? Doubt it.

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