The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, April 28, 2021

There's no script for Kim Mulkey to LSU — Kim speaks — Must-click women's basketball links

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Kim Mulkey, reminding us that she won’t be spending her new LSU salary on masks (Screenshot from her presser)

I’ve been enjoying all the drama around the Kim Mulkey to LSU move, haven’t you?

Some things to consider about it.

I haven’t been able to officially confirm this, but it seems the last championship-winning head coach to leave that program, without taking time off, for another program is Marianne Stanley, from Old Dominion to Penn. And readers of The IX know we have deep, abiding respect for all Marianne has done (and we love The Palestra!), but this feels a bit bigger in terms of ramifications for the sport.

Suddenly, the Big 12 is wide-open and Vic Schaefer’s for the taking. Consider that he now has Texas, in many ways, to himself, though Gary Blair and Raegan Pebley will have something to say about that. But no more Kim Mulkey and Baylor as a counterweight feels like if he’d been at Mississippi State and Dawn Staley left South Carolina.

Speaking of Dawn, the level of battle between South Carolina and LSU is going to be off-the-charts fun. Neither one leaves things unsaid, and it is a matter of when, not if these two go at one another in the media and for big recruits.

What does happen to Baylor, anyway? For Mulkey to leave, it meant they wanted a different direction for the wbb program. That doesn’t necessarily mean a de-emphasizing, but a big early tell will be who they hire and at what salary slot.

The early buzz is around folks like Joni Taylor of Georgia, promoting Sytia Messer (if she doesn’t follow Kim to Baton Rouge), or maybe a big play for Jeff Walz. (Personally, I’d call Nicki Collen and see how settled she is in Atlanta.)

And will LSU provide Mulkey with the resources necessary to succeed? If that success doesn’t come right away, considering she wore out her welcome at a place where she’d won three national championships, just how long is her runway?

It is all going to be utterly fascinating. We have no real precedent for this.

What do you think? Will Kim Mulkey succeed at LSU?

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This week in women’s basketball

Alexa Philippou takes a look at Morgan Valley’s path back to Storrs.

Marcus Thompson discusses Te’a Cooper’s presence on and off the court.

Loved this from Marisa Ingemi on WNBA second rounders.

Cheryl Reeve with a curtain-raiser, courtesy of Kent Youngblood.

We’re all rooting for T to succeed, aren’t we?

Percy Allen looks at the key questions facing the Storm.

Always listen to Sarah Flynn.

Sabreena Merchant looks at the biggest questions facing the Sparks in training camp.

Natalie Weiner is right, the WNBA needs expansion.

Here’s Ben Dowsett on the growing number of women officials in the NBA.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo remembers what the WNBA’s first game meant to her.

My latest at FiveThirtyEight looks at WNBA training camp battles.

Dr. Lindsey Darvin has a new article on gender stereotypes in NBA2K.

Lots of fun detail in here about the Baylor-Kim Mulkey breakup.

Maria Marino talks to DiDi Richards.

The great Lindsay Gibbs has a fun audit of the NCAA Final Four coverage, and how much women’s basketball received of it. (There’s some actual good news in here!)


Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Kim Mulkey speaks

(Here’s hoping a national media Zoom with Kim follows soon.)

Q.You’ve spoken multiple times about having the championship coach you here at LSU. What is your first step to building this program towards that?

KIM MULKEY: Well, it’s not going to happen overnight. I’m going to repeat that over and over.

I’ve got to go empty a closet. I got to go pack a house. I got to empty an office. We’ve got a lot of work to do there in order to get here. Then after you get settled in here, many of them will be home if they’re not in summer school. Then you got to get a schedule going, where are they going to be during the summer, can we have individual or team workouts. June 1 comes, you have to hit the road recruiting. It’s a lot of things to do. We will do it as quickly as we can, but we won’t go and do any shortcuts.

I won’t hire a staff if I’m not comfortable just to fill a spot. I want the right people.

Does that help you a little bit (smiling)?

Q.LSU hiring somebody of your magnitude, what message do you think it sends to the country not only about LSU athletics but the institution and what direction it’s heading?

KIM MULKEY: Well, I want to say this. It’s hard for me to hear when you say a coach of my magnitude. I’m very uncomfortable when I hear that. Thank you, but I don’t view myself that way. I honestly view myself as that little girl from Tickfaw. I came from humble beginnings. I have been blessed in my life to play with some of the greatest players to ever play this game. I have been coached by legends, Leon Barmore, Pat Summitt. The list goes on.

I was never going to be a coach. My degree is in business administration. I was working on my master’s degree at Louisiana Tech. Had received a post-graduate scholarship from the NCAA for graduating summa cum laude, all that stuff. I was going to be a CEO, fly all around the country.

Dr. F. Jay Taylor, then the president at Louisiana Tech, had different plans for me. As I was sitting in class, working on my masters, he sent campus police to the classroom. Naturally you think that it’s a bad, tragic situation. The police said, When your class is over, Dr. Taylor would like to see you on the 16th floor of Wyly Tower. I trucked up there, actually I ran up 16 flights of stairs. They convinced me to help Leon Barmore once Sonja Hogg retired to get into coaching.

I have to be honest with you. These guys are going to feel that way just as I did as a player. I wanted no more of Leon Barmore. I was tired of him. I played with him for four years, I was moving on. I loved him, though. It was just time to say, Uh-huh. The man wouldn’t take no for an answer. He knew more about what I needed to do in life at that age than I did. 36 years later, this is what I’ve been meant to do in life.

I think the statement, if I can say this, how do you get a coach to leave an institution that has had so much success? I think that’s what everybody’s wondering. The first thing you’re going to wonder is, God, she got a boatload of money. My boat does not float because of money.

Let me also tell you, my very first paycheck as a coach, head coach, was for $125,000, and I thought I was the richest kid in the world. All I wanted was resources. I wanted resources that I could sell to young people. I wanted an institution that I could be proud of. I wanted them to leave with a degree in their hand. I wanted the resources to be able to hire staff to make me look good.

Everywhere I’ve been, those things have happened. Yes, it did take money to get me away from Baylor, but that was not the deciding factor. I can assure you anybody that know me, I’ll wear the same warmup in practice for the whole season because I’m too lazy to go spend money and buy something else.

I hope, Scott, that Nike contract you renew, you can save some money on me, give it to somebody that likes to wear Nike. I’ll wear the same old stuff every day.

Does that happen answer your question a little bit? Go Tigers.

Q.Could you dive a little bit deeper into your relationship with D-D Breaux, why that brought you here to LSU? Was that a big factor in you wanting to return home?

KIM MULKEY: D-D Breaux, I actually recognized her from afar through the years. I asked D-D this today. D-D, who was your coach at Southeastern in Hammond? Which you all know that’s where I’m from. She told me. Yeah, that’s who I’m talking about. You knew who D-D Breaux was.

I watched her gymnastics teams on TV. I watched the crowds and how people loved her and loved the program. Did not really know D-D personally, but my God, in the last week I feel like I’ve known her my whole life.

D-D Breaux talks my language. She talks my language. I will certainly call on her and Paul Mainieri, everybody else that comes across in my path at LSU for help. You say help? Oh, yeah, I need help. I need help. I need help with fans. I need help with administrators. It takes everybody helping and pulling for each other.

I’m one of these that Ed Orgeron may have to throw me off the field because I may go out there and run a tight end play across the middle when he’s throwing to the receivers too much. I might go out there and tell Paul Mainieri he’s leaving that guy on the mound too long.

But the thing they know, I’m a coach’s coach, too. I will defend a coach in a heartbeat. So don’t ever come around me talking bad about a coach because you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Q.The timing of all this, when did you and LSU start talking to each other? When did you make the decision?

KIM MULKEY: Timing in everybody’s life, the timing in your life, is so important. If it doesn’t feel right at that time in your life, you don’t do it. If it feels right, you do it. That’s another part of why I’m here. Just felt right. The timing in my life, it felt right.

Specifically to answer your question, an introduction phone call was made, let me think, last week early in the week. An offer was made the latter part or the middle of the week. Then I mulled over it and contemplated over it until yesterday afternoon.

I thank Scott, Stephanie, D-D. I know they wanted an answer immediately. Guys, you can’t give an answer like that immediately. I wanted to cover all my bases at Baylor. I wanted to visit with my family. I wanted to visit with my team.

Lastly and the decision was announced yesterday. As right after I told my team at Baylor I think the women’s basketball team here also was told just about the same time.

Q.We’ve obviously talked so much about why you’re coming here, but I mean, just how difficult was it to wrestle with leaving Baylor after everything you built there?

KIM MULKEY: It was very difficult. My eyes are swollen. My eyes are red. I have had so many sleepless nights. I can’t tell you how many hours sleep I’ve probably had in the last five days, not much. Because when your heart is invested in something so intensely and so passionately, it’s hard to let go.

But yet when your heart also says it’s time to move on and accept your next challenge, and it’s at home. It just kept weighing on me. It kept weighing on me something felt right here. And it just was icing on the cake. That it was LSU.

I would not have left Baylor for any other school. Except LSU. Certainly I had to talk to my staff. The hardest person for me to convince to take this job was Kramer. Y’all believe that right? It took about 10 seconds so I waited to call him last. After the offer was made. I made sure he was the last one I called him.

THE MODERATOR: This is isn’t a question as much as I just hate to miss the opportunity. A couple of rows behind Johnny. They brought you a treat they were trying to show you earlier.

KIM MULKEY: They brought me a treat that they’re trying to show me earlier. Strawberries!

John Bel can identify with this. I think I’ve attended every festival along 51 there in Tangipahoa Parish. I’d always go to Ponchatoula for the strawberry festival then I’d go to Independence for the Little Italy festival. Then I go to Amite for the oyster festival.

So I’ve had every place on 51. Ironically, I didn’t come to Baton Rouge much when I grew up. But Lord I have spent more money and time in Baton Rouge when Kramer was here. So those of you paid a lot of money to eat. Keep your doors open. I love to eat.

Q.Where are you eating first when you leave here?

KIM MULKEY: Well, I don’t know. It depends on where they take me. But I can tell you this and I told Scott this. One of the things I miss the most is food from Louisiana. So I have these visions of on Monday, man, I’m going to get a muffuletta. On Tuesday. I’m gonna go get a PO Boy, on Wednesday I’m going to go get some crawfish.

Do you understand people don’t think like that unless they grow up here. So to answer your question, probably someone will get me something and hand it to me in a bag and I’ll get on the plane heading back and I’ll eat whatever it is because it will be so good.

Oh they don’t want me to forget about Hi-Ho barbecue in Hammond, now you got it Hi-Ho barbecue. Dressed with sauce.

As Coach Orgeron says, Go Tigers.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.