Drury Vice President & Director of Athletics, Nyla Milleson, turned to a former colleague to take the reigns of the Lady Panthers basketball program. Milleson, who was the first-ever head coach of the Lady Panthers and launched a program that features the best all-time winning percentage in NCAA-II women’s basketball, has named Kaci Bailey as the team’s next head coach. Drury interim President John Beuerlein made the announcement with Milleson on Wednesday.
Bailey has been the head coach at Quincy for the last two seasons and worked as an assistant coach under Milleson at George Mason University at the NCAA Division I level from 2017-2021. Bailey has been an assistant coach at the Division I level for seven years, with two seasons as an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Wichita State and Central Arkansas in addition to her stint at George Mason.
She takes over at Drury after Amy Eagan stepped down on March 28 to become the head coach at Lindenwood University.
“It is my privilege to announce Kaci Bailey as the next coach for the Drury Lady Panthers,” said Milleson. “As a member of my coaching staff for four years at George Mason, I witnessed first-hand how Kaci relates to student-athletes, develops talent, and gets the most out of players. She is an excellent recruiter and was valuable to me on sidelines during games. I appreciated how Kaci was a mentor to our players both on and off the court, and I know she will be a guiding force that will shape the lives of the young women here at Drury. I’m proud the have the opportunity to hire Kaci for a second time and bring her to the Lady Panthers program.”
As head coach at Quincy, Bailey led the Hawks through one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in recent history. She inherited a team that won just two games in 2020-21 and, this season, guided them to their first postseason appearance in seven years. The Hawks finished 13-16, 9-11 in the GLVC and nearly derailed the Lady Panthers’ quest for a seventh-straight conference title in the league quarterfinals. In Drury’s 24 games against conference opponents during the regular season and postseason, their game against Quincy was the only time the Lady Panthers trailed in the final two minutes. The Hawks missed a shot as time expired, and Drury survived for a 79-78 win, then went on to capture the GLVC championship.
Quincy ended the regular season third-best in the GLVC in points allowed (66.5), three-point defense (allowing a .314 percentage), and they were fourth in rebound margin (+3.8 per game). Prior to Bailey’s arrival, the Hawks were last in the league in rebounding margin, next to last in points allowed, and 11th out of 15 teams in three-point defense.
“Drury is a great program and the opportunity to work with Nyla again was something I wanted to pursue,” said Bailey. I am a big believer that you win with the people that are in your life and what better way to win than working with my former boss and a mentor like Nyla.”
At George Mason, Bailey helped the Patriots to a 24-10 record in 2017-18, and their 24 wins are still the most in the program’s 48-year history. She helped develop point guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, who in three seasons became George Mason’s all-time leading scorer, was the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2019, and was the league’s Freshman of the Year in 2018 before transferring to Indiana where was an All-Big Ten selection in 2022.
Bailey also helped turn around a Wichita State team that went 8-22 and 5-13 in the Missouri Valley Conference in her first year on the staff to a squad that went 15-16, finished fifth in the MVC with a 9-9 mark and reached the league semifinals just a year later.
In her two years at Central Arkansas, Bailey was part of a coaching staff that went 35-26 and reached the Southland Conference championship game in 2014. She coached the conference Player of the Year, Courtney Duever, and the league’s Freshman of the Year, Brianna Mullins, in 2014.
Bailey joined the coaching staff at Henderson State in 2011 and was named the program’s interim head coach just prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, guiding the Reddies to a 13-14 record. She also served as a graduate assistant coach at Arkansas-Monticello from 2009-11.
Bailey played collegiately at Southern Illinois and was a starter through most of her senior season in 2008-09. She was on the Salukis Missouri Valley Conference championship team in 2007 and, as a senior, led her team in three-pointers made and three-point percentage. She was also named to the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete Team following her senior year, as she carried a 3.92 grade point average. As a member of the Salukis, Bailey played against Nyla Milleson’s Missouri State Lady Bears during Milleson’s tenure as head coach at Missouri State.
Originally from Dresden, Tennessee, Bailey was a First Team All-State selection as a senior in high school and set team records for career three-pointers made (257) and free throw percentage (.845). She scored 1,482 points during her high school career, the third-most in school history.
Bailey graduated from Southern Illinois with a degree in Recreation with minors in Business Marketing and Psychology. She owns a Master’s degree in Sport Management from Arkansas-Little Rock.
The Drury Lady Panthers will enter the 2023-24 season with an all-time record of 607-118, and their winning percentage of .837 is the best mark in all of NCAA-II women’s basketball. Drury has won 12 conference championships, five regional titles and has advanced to the Final Four three times.
This year, they reached the NCAA-II Tournament for the 20th time in the program’s 23-year history, finished 31-2, and ended the year ranked eighth in the final NCAA-II coaches’ poll.
Bailey will be the sixth head coach in program history.