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Kim Mulkey: Hall of Fame Coach with a Legacy of Championships
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Kim Mulkey is a renowned American college basketball coach and former player, currently leading the Louisiana State University (LSU) women's basketball team. Known for her exceptional coaching career, Mulkey has achieved historic success, including winning national championships as a player, assistant coach, and head coach, and being inducted into both the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

 

Mulkey's Early Life and High School Achievements

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Kim Mulkey was born on May 17, 1962, in Santa Ana, California, and raised in Tickfaw, Louisiana. She displayed athletic prowess from a young age, playing Dixie Youth baseball and Pony League baseball, where she made the all-star team. At Hammond High School, Mulkey led her basketball team to four consecutive state championships, amassing a 136-5 record and setting a then-national record with 4,075 points. She earned all-district, all-state, and All-America honors each year and graduated as valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
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Coaching Beginnings at Louisiana Tech

Kim Mulkey's coaching career began at Louisiana Tech, where she transitioned from a standout player to a pivotal coaching role. Starting as an assistant coach in 1985, Mulkey quickly made her mark by contributing to the Lady Techsters' impressive 430-68 record over her 15-year tenure. Her responsibilities included recruiting, tutoring guards, overseeing academic progress, and running summer camps, ensuring that no player was declared academically ineligible under her watch. In 1996, Mulkey was promoted to associate head coach, a position she held until 2000. During this period, Louisiana Tech advanced to seven Final Fours and won the NCAA championship in 1988. Mulkey's coaching prowess was evident in her ability to develop players and maintain the program's high standards. Her dedication to both the athletic and academic success of her players set a foundation for her future coaching endeavors.
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Mulkey's Coaching Career Highlights

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Kim Mulkey's coaching career spans several decades and includes significant achievements at Louisiana Tech, Baylor University, and Louisiana State University (LSU). Below is a detailed overview of her coaching career, highlighting her roles, accomplishments, and contributions to each program.
PeriodRoleAchievements
1985-2000Assistant and Associate Head Coach at Louisiana TechContributed to a 430-68 record, seven Final Four appearances, and an NCAA championship in 1988.
2000-2021Head Coach at Baylor UniversityTransformed a struggling program, leading Baylor to three NCAA championships (2005, 2012, 2019), including a perfect 40-0 season in 2012.
2021-PresentHead Coach at LSULed LSU to a national championship in 2023, marking her fourth title as a head coach.

Louisiana Tech Assistant and Associate Head Coach

Kim Mulkey began her coaching career at Louisiana Tech, where she served as an assistant coach from 1985 to 1996 and as associate head coach from 1996 to 2000. During her tenure, Louisiana Tech posted a remarkable 430-68 record and advanced to seven Final Fours, including winning the NCAA championship in 1988. Mulkey's responsibilities included recruiting, tutoring guards, overseeing academic progress, and running summer camps, ensuring no player was declared academically ineligible under her watch.

Baylor University Turnaround and Success

In 2000, Mulkey took over a struggling Baylor program that had finished its previous season 7-20 and last in the Big 12 Conference. Under her leadership, Baylor received its first NCAA tournament bid during her inaugural season and went on to the tournament 18 more times. The Lady Bears advanced to the Final Four four times, winning national championships in 2005, 2012, and 2019. The 2012 national title followed a perfect 40-0 season, the first in program history. Mulkey also coached notable players like Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims, emphasizing both offensive and defensive prowess.

Louisiana State University (LSU) Recent Success

Mulkey joined LSU in 2021 and quickly made an impact, leading the team to a national championship in 2023, her fourth as a head coach. Her ability to turn around programs and lead them to success has solidified her reputation as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history.
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Mulkey's Achievements and Honors

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Kim Mulkey's illustrious career is marked by numerous achievements and honors, reflecting her impact on women's basketball. Below is a summary of her most notable accolades:
  • Hall of Fame Inductions:
    • Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (2000)
    • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2020)
    • National High School Hall of Fame (1985)
    • Louisiana High School Hall of Fame (1986)
    • Louisiana Sports Writers Hall of Fame (1990)
    • Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame (1992)
    • CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame (2003)
    • Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame (2007)
    • Texas Sports Hall of Fame (2010)
  • Milestones:
    • Fastest coach to reach 600 career wins in Division I history, achieving this in 700 games
    • First person to win NCAA titles as a player, assistant coach, and head coach
  • Coaching Awards:
    • National Coach of the Year nine times
    • Big 12 Coach of the Year eight times
    • New York Athletic Club’s Winged Foot Award after each national championship as a head coach
These accolades underscore Mulkey's exceptional contributions to the sport, both on and off the court.
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Controversies and Criticisms

Kim Mulkey's career has been marked by several controversies, particularly involving her relationship with Brittney Griner, her comments on COVID-19, and her legal threats against media outlets.

Brittney Griner

Mulkey's relationship with Brittney Griner, a star player she coached at Baylor, has been fraught with tension. Griner has publicly stated that Mulkey advised her and other players to keep their sexual orientation private while at Baylor, a policy that Griner felt was driven by recruiting concerns. This "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" approach created a challenging environment for Griner, who later detailed her struggles in her autobiography. Additionally, Mulkey faced criticism for her lack of public support during Griner's detention in Russia in 2022. Despite widespread calls for Griner's release, Mulkey remained notably silent, only briefly addressing the situation in a local radio interview. This silence drew backlash from former players and the broader basketball community, who felt Mulkey's response was inadequate given Griner's contributions to Baylor's success.

COVID-19 Comments

In 2021, Mulkey sparked controversy with her comments regarding COVID-19 testing during the NCAA tournament. She suggested that the NCAA should stop testing players for COVID-19 to ensure the tournament could proceed without disruptions. Her remarks were widely criticized as irresponsible, given the ongoing pandemic and the importance of health and safety protocols.

Legal Threats

Mulkey has also been involved in legal disputes with media outlets. She threatened to sue The Washington Post over an article that she claimed used deceptive tactics to portray her negatively. The article highlighted various controversies, including her handling of player relationships and her response to Griner's situation. Mulkey's aggressive stance towards the media has been a recurring theme, as she has previously attempted to get journalists fired for reporting on contentious issues involving her and her players. These controversies have contributed to Mulkey's complex legacy, painting a picture of a coach whose remarkable achievements on the court are often overshadowed by her off-court actions and statements.
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Mulkey's Personal Life and Family

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Kim Mulkey married Randy Robertson in 1987, whom she met while both were athletes at Louisiana Tech. The couple divorced in 2006, and Mulkey has described the divorce as a blindsiding event in her life. They have two children: Kramer Robertson, a professional baseball player, and Makenzie Robertson, who played college basketball and softball and is now an assistant coach on Mulkey's staff at LSU. Mulkey is also known for her flamboyant and colorful game-day outfits, often inspired by Louisiana culture, and she receives styling assistance from Jennifer Roberts, LSU's director of Player personnel and influence.
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Kim Mulkey's coaching philosophy

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Kim Mulkey's coaching philosophy is characterized by a blend of intensity, discipline, and personalized motivation. Drawing from her own experiences as an elite college basketball player, Mulkey leverages her understanding of the game to push her players to their limits, often using her energetic sideline presence to inspire them. She believes in the importance of hard work and effort, emphasizing defense and a strong inside-out offensive strategy. Mulkey's approach to discipline is unwavering, yet she adapts her methods to suit individual players, recognizing that some may need encouragement while others require a firmer hand. Despite her demanding style, many players, such as Angel Reese, have expressed deep respect and gratitude for her mentorship, highlighting her ability to foster strong, supportive relationships within the team.
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Impact on Women's Basketball

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Kim Mulkey's impact on women's basketball is profound, extending far beyond her teams' on-court successes. Her coaching achievements have significantly contributed to the growth and visibility of the sport, inspiring a new generation of players and coaches. Mulkey's tenure at Baylor and LSU has not only brought national championships but also elevated the programs to national prominence, demonstrating the potential for excellence in women's sports. Her advocacy for equality and dedication to her players have fostered a culture of empowerment and resilience within her teams. Additionally, Mulkey's outspoken nature and flamboyant style have made her a prominent and sometimes polarizing figure, drawing attention to women's basketball and sparking conversations about the sport's place in the broader athletic landscape.
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Closing Thoughts

Kim Mulkey's career is a testament to her relentless pursuit of excellence and her profound impact on women's basketball. From her early days as a standout player to her transformative coaching roles at Louisiana Tech, Baylor, and LSU, Mulkey has consistently demonstrated her ability to build winning programs and develop top-tier talent. Her achievements, including multiple national championships and Hall of Fame inductions, underscore her status as one of the sport's most influential figures. Despite facing controversies and criticisms, Mulkey's dedication to her players and her unique coaching style have left an indelible mark on the game, inspiring future generations and contributing to the growth and visibility of women's basketball in the United States.
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