Her second Bruin team finished with 25 wins, the fourth-most in school history, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. After a mid-January setback in conference play, the Bruins lost only to NCAA runner-up Stanford (twice) and No. 4-ranked Nebraska, two No. 1 NCAA Tournament seeds, while winning 15 of its last 18 contests. The squad matched the school mark for conference wins in a season with 15, while taking second in the Pac-10. It also set a school record by limiting opponents to 57.5 points per game.
Her 2009 Bruin team completed her inaugural campaign with a 19-12 record and tied for fourth place in the Pac-10 Conference. The 19 wins matched the number for the 10th-best total in school history. The total of 13 home wins tied for the second-most in school annals. In addition, for the first time since the 1986-87 season, the Bruins won as many as nine pre-season, non-conference games.
Caldwell and staff then proceeded to haul in the 14th-ranked recruiting class in the nation, headlined by McDonald's All-American Markel Walker from Philadelphia, PA. The staff added another McDonald's All-American for 2009-10 in transfer Jasmine Dixon.
Caldwell was named head coach of the Bruins on April 17, 2008. She came to UCLA after serving as an assistant on the staff of legendary women's coach Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee for the 2003-08 seasons. She helped the Lady Vols post a 195-24 record during that span, which included five trips to the Final Four and NCAA championships in '07 and '08. Caldwell has been lauded as an excellent floor coach and a consistent star among college recruiters.
In her 14 seasons as a collegiate player and assistant coach, Caldwell's teams compiled an amazing 404-76 record and appeared in the NCAA Tournament each season, while winning three national championships.
In 2008, the Lady Vols captured a second-straight NCAA championship and finished with a record of 36-2. National Player of the Year Candace Parker, the No. 1 selection in the WNBA draft and the '08 WNBA MVP, led a group of five Lady Vols to be drafted into the WNBA on the day following the championship.
Caldwell joined the Tennessee staff for the 2002-03 season and became the recruiting director in the spring of 2003. In the fall of '03, the Tennessee staff signed perhaps the most prolific freshman class in the history of women's collegiate basketball. That class consisted of six 2004 high school All-Americans, including three Players of the Year. In '07, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) named Tennessee as the best recruiting school in the nation. In '08, three of the top 15 current high school seniors in the country (hoopgurlz.com) committed to play for Tennessee in '08-09, and five played in the McDonald's All-American Game.
Prior to her return as a coach at her alma mater, Caldwell served as an assistant at the University of Virginia for three seasons (2000-2002). She was responsible for recruiting, scouting, film exchange, player development, camps and monitoring academic progress of student-athletes. UVA compiled a record of 60-36 in her three seasons in Charlottesville and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each campaign. She helped to develop standout Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) players Telisha Quarles, at guard, and forward Brandi Teamer, the '02 ACC Rookie of the Year.
A guard during her own playing days (1991-94) when the Lady Vols put together a 118-13 record, Caldwell was known for her tough defense and three-point shooting. She still ranks among the all-time top 10 at Tennessee in three-point field goals made (128) and three-point shots attempted (364). She scored 20 points in her first collegiate game against Stanford and went on to be named to the Southeastern Conference's (SEC) All-Freshman team. In the '91 NCAA title game victory over Virginia, Caldwell's defense was considered a key in UT's overtime win. She received the Gloria Ray Leadership Award in both her junior and senior seasons at Tennessee.
After graduating with a degree in public relations in 1994, Caldwell moved behind the microphone as a color analyst on Tennessee games for Fox Sports Net South. She went on to become the color analyst for the SEC's Game of the Week from 1995-97. Her television exposure opened the door for her to become the hostess of the sports segments for the Knoxville, TX-based cable network show, Shop at Home ('97-98). She then decided to return to her first love, coaching, in 1998, when she became a graduate assistant for administration on the Lady Vols women's basketball staff. During the '98-99 season, Tennessee went 31-3 and captured the SEC regular season and SEC Tournament titles. Caldwell was responsible for assisting the coaching staff in all aspects of basketball operations.
Caldwell has continued to do television work in Los Angeles, joining CBS2/KCAL's Jim Hill as an analyst on Sports Central for the NCAA men's basketball tournament and also on Laker pregame and halftime shows.
Caldwell is a passionate crusader for breast cancer awareness. She and Tennessee assistant coach Holly Warlick have founded the non-profit organization, Champions for a Cause. Since 2007, they have raised over $100,000 through Cruisin' for a Cause, a long-haul motorcycle adventure to raise dollars and awareness for a cure for breast cancer. Caldwell and Warlick chronicled their cross-country rides on their website, www.cruisinforacause.com. In 2010, Caldwell joined the Board of Directors for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and is currently serving on the Executive Committee as Treasurer.
Caldwell was raised in Oak Ridge, TN by her mother, Jean Caldwell. Caldwell has a younger sister, Simone, brother-in-law, Kirk and niece, Khayla.
What They're Saying:
"We are thrilled to welcome Nikki to the Bruin family. She is bright, articulate and an outstanding coach and recruiter who is a rising star in her profession. 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
"Nikki embodies everything we were looking for in a head coach. She has worked with some of the best coaches in the history of women's basketball, and we look forward to her establishing her own reputation as a great head coach." -UCLA Senior Associate Athletic Director/Senior Women's Administrator Petrina Long
"Nikki Caldwell is a champion as a player and as a coach. She is a true professional, a go-getter who really knows how to coach. Even Pat Summitt has said she is so much like her and is capable of taking kids to great places in life and on the court. I am very excited about the future of UCLA women's basketball." - UCLA Hall of Fame basketball player and Phoenix Mercury GM Ann Meyers
"Tennessee's loss is going to be UCLA's gain. Nikki Caldwell is truly one of the rising stars in women's college basketball. She is the total package as a teacher, a coach and a recruiter. She is a woman of great character and has a powerful gift of mentoring young women. Nikki has been instrumental in the success of our program as both a player and most recently as an assistant coach for the last six years." - Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summitt
"There couldn't have been a better candidate for the job. Nikki Caldwell represents passion, commitment and intelligence within the game of women's basketball. She is destined to do nothing but good things, and UCLA will truly benefit from her services. I personally have connected with Coach Caldwell as a player underneath her for 4 years, not just within basketball but personally. She has my support and forever will as she helps to reestablish a storied program." - Tennessee All-American and Los Angeles Sparks No. 1 Draft Pick Candace Parker
Nikki Caldwell Year-By-Year Record