Baylor Head Coach Nicki Collen

Baylor Bears women’s basketball Coach Nicki Collen spoke to the media recently in preparation for the team’s 2022 season. When asked about alumna Brittney Griner, Collen spent nearly five minutes discussing Griner’s detention in Russia where she pled guilty to charges of drug possession and was given a nine-year sentence.

“Those that have been around me know I get pretty emotional,” she said. “I think BG, first of all, is human first. I think this is a human rights issue. No one’s saying she didn’t make a mistake. None of us are perfect. But I guess I would wanna know if I did something and was stuck in a foreign country, what it was, what it wasn’t. I think we all know that 10 years is a long time. I see her as a mother, as a sister, as a spouse, as a daughter, as an unbelievable ambassador for the game of basketball.”

Collen’s response comes the same day that LSU’s Kim Mulkey, who was Griner’s coach at Baylor and helped the team to win the 2012 NCAA women’s basketball championship, declined to comment on the situation.

A reporter asked Collen to not necessarily respond to Mulkey’s actions, to which she said, “thank you,” after biting her lip, but how she would address those questioning Griner’s character.

“I think it’s easy to question people you don’t know,” she said. “And you don’t know their situation and we can’t pretend to know if what was said in the court system was real or just part of the court system. It’s no different than people are told by lawyers over here to plead guilty because of certain things in the United States in the court system. It’s not my job to judge, quite frankly.”

Collen, who joined the Bears program in 2021, previously coached in the WNBA for the Atlanta Dream. She explained how she got to know the Phoenix Mercury star by coaching against her. When she accepted the Baylor job, she was in touch with Griner and has plans of retiring her jersey.

“Knowing BG, knowing her, being around her, she’s a big kid,” Collen said. “To know her is to love her. I mean, honestly, she just is one of those people that radiates joy.”