Baylor was justified in letting Kim Mulkey leave for LSU, but this was a loser move
Baylor’s decision to let Kim Mulkey walk across the states lines over to Baton Rouge, La. is the rare instance where it’s perfectly reasonable, and embarrassingly indefensible.
The Outfit is back in Texas, doing her “thang.”
The NCAA women’s Final Four is in Dallas this weekend, and Mulkey is there. In her second season at LSU, the Tigers are in the Final Four.
Mulkey is one of those personalities who make you want to smash your phone but you miss talking to her.
Whatever you think of The Mouth Without a Mute Button, her departure to LSU stings.
She says sentences that made a lot of people mad over the years, presently company included, but she was great for Baylor. She was great for women’s sports in Texas. She is great for women’s basketball.
I went after her hard for her callous take on former Baylor All-American Brittney Griner, but Kim Mulkey left a hole in this entire state that can’t be filled.
Baylor should never, ever have left a coach like her leave. She might be one of four women’s basketball coaches the average fan can name.
The woman could sell her own brand of 178 oz. Mulkey PITA, which is ultimately why Baylor told her she should take the LSU job back in April of 2021.
It’s perfectly reasonable to miss a person who was both good for you, and drove you half mad.
It’s perfectly reasonable why Baylor President Linda Livingstone and Baylor director of athletics Mack Rhoades had had enough.
It’s one thing to put up with certain personalities if your sport is a revenue producer. It’s quite another to put up with a lot of personality from a coach who presides over a non-revenue sport.
It’s a brutal, ugly truth of major college athletics.
BU women’s basketball under Mulkey probably generated more revenue than most women’s college basketball teams, and not enough to offset its costs.
However reasonable it is that both parties decided to privately tell the other to go to H, all of us in the state lost when Mulkey moved east.
On Tuesday during a pre-Final Four virtual press conference, I asked Mulkey if there are any emotions about coming back to play in the Final Four in a location that is 90 minutes north of her old place.
“You never spend 21 years of your life building a dynasty, and that’s what we did at Baylor. I think we can all agree with that,” she said. “I still have a home there. My grandchildren are there. So my heart will always be there.”
Under Mulkey, Baylor wasn’t quite UConn under Geno Auriemma, or Tennessee under Pat Summitt, but it was just a tenth of a peg underneath those names. Baylor women’s basketball was a national brand.
Before the football team under Art Briles, Matt Rhule and Dave Aranda and men’s basketball under Scott Drew became points of pride, Baylor had a positive identity under Mulkey.
Building a national name in a non-revenue sport in college athletics is almost as difficult as winning a national title in football. It might be more difficult.
Baylor won three national titles because of Mulkey and her teams.
“But the timing in my life told me it was time to come back to LSU and put women’s basketball back where it properly belongs,” she said. “I have lifelong friends there. There will be Baylor people sitting in my section that are heartbroken that I left. I get it.
“Someday when I’m retired, maybe I’ll write another book and have more details, but I love Baylor University, the fans there, the Lady Bear fans there. But it was time. Timing is everything in life.”
She’s right. Timing is everything.
A lot of this sounds like spin.
LSU offered a raise, and there were “differences of opinion” between Mulkey and the administration on some issues, most notably the new basketball arena.
Baylor could have kept her. It had to be just willing to deal with her.
Much like Florida State with Jimbo Fisher in 2017, Baylor decided it could live without its national-title winning coach.
“(I) went to Baylor (in 2000), and it wasn’t because Baylor was killing it in women’s basketball. It was the school that was on the phone with me at the time in my life that I was ready to make that move,” she said. “LSU was on the phone with me at that time when I was ready to make a move.
“You don’t do -- I don’t know, maybe you can tell me. Can you name a coach in men’s or women’s basketball that did what I did, that left a dynasty that was basically theirs? So I had no blueprint.”
Doesn’t happen often.
“I had nobody to call,” Mulkey said. “It was my gut, and timing in life, that told me this is the right move to make.”
The move certainly worked for Mulkey, and for LSU. It’s too early to tell if it worked for Baylor.
Whatever the specifics of her leaving Baylor for LSU no longer matter. She’s doing in Baton Rouge what she did in Waco for decades.
Whatever you think of Kim Mulkey, she was good for Baylor.
Even though she can say paragraphs that will drive you nuts, she is is good for women’s basketball and women’s sports.
Sports in Texas misses her.