Mike Petersen ready for sudden transition from Atlanta Dream assistant to interim head coach

Mike Petersen was surprised to find himself interim head coach of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream on Monday, but says he's ready to do whatever the organization needs. The Dream starts its season on May 14.

Petersen, a Dream assistant the past three seasons, was elevated Monday when head coach Nicki Collen left to take over the Baylor women's basketball program. Petersen spoke with the media via Zoom call on Tuesday, saying he and fellow assistant Darius Taylor didn't find out how serious Collen's involvement was with Baylor until Monday morning before the Dream's practice.

"Our industry, whether it's college or pros, a lot of times these things pop in a hurry," Petersen said. "From that point forward, a lot of Zooms. We just spent basically all day yesterday meeting and talking, and making sure we were doing the right thing for the players in this organization.

"This is just a fabulous group of players. They've had tremendous energy and focus. My thing is just I'm here to serve. There's not going to be a very big change in terms of how we operate day-to-day. Nikki always involved Darius and I a lot in the process: in practice, in game preparation, during the game. So our players are very used to hearing our voices."

Petersen said the Dream players were happy for Collen's new opportunity, although understandably disappointed to see her go. He anticipates a few differences with him as head coach, but nothing major.

"I told the team today I'm a short-practice guy," Petersen said. "That doesn't mean they're easy. We're going to go short, we're going to go hard, and we're going to get out of here.

"I'm very much an offensive end of the floor person. Darius is going to be very dialed in on the defense. We're going to do this very cooperatively. My deal is, treat people right. Try to be as positive as you can all the time."

Petersen said he expects the Dream will hire another assistant soon. He previously was a collegiate head coach for women's programs at Gonzaga, New Mexico State, TCU, Wake Forest and North Texas. But he said he is not looking at this as a tryout for the Dream head-coaching job long-term.

"When I came here, I told Nicki, 'I don't need to be a head coach again; I'm very happy being an assistant,' " Petersen said. "My career's been ... I'm Forrest Gump, man. I just kind of wander through life and awesome stuff happens all around me. This is the role I have now, and I'm going to do my very best job with Darius. This isn't about me. This is 100 percent about the players in this organization."