Opinion: Kim Mulkey and Her Team Bring Style, Spunk and Success

Kim Mulkey crouches on the sidelines in heels coaching her old team Baylor in 2019. On Sunday, Mulkey made history by leading her new team, LSU, to the NCAA Division I championship title (Photo via Wikimedia Commons).

Let me start by saying I am not a huge sports fan. I catch a Pistons game here and there with my Dad, read the Pleiad’s sports articles and am always down to eat soft pretzels at Comerica Park.

But this season of women’s college basketball was one I could not stop watching.

It all started with viral videos of Kim Mulkey, LSU’s head coach, popping up on my feed. In them, she was screaming at referees and slamming her hand on the court – dressed head to toe in bright colors and glitter. 

I was hooked.

Now, I had no idea when I started following her and LSU that they would be champions, but I’m nowhere near surprised.

Mulkey’s head coaching career began in 2000 at Baylor, where she led the Lady Bears program to its first NCAA tournament. In 2005, Mulkey coached her team to a national title against Michigan State, becoming the first woman and fourth person ever to win an NCAA Division I title as head coach and player. After 21 seasons, Mulkey became head coach at LSU in 2021.

Just two years later – LSU has taken home its first NCAA championship in its program history. And boy oh boy was it a game to see. 

The game started off close, but LSU took control of the lead in the middle of the second quarter, the final game tally being 102-85. On the court, there was amazing gameplay, especially by LSU’s Most Outstanding Player, Angel Reese, and intense trash talk between Reese and Iowa’s star guard Caitlyn Clark. Off the court was Mulkey, dressed in a fantastical pink, tiger-printed and sequin-covered suit.

The fourth quarter brought the drama as Iowa attempted to stop LSU from reaching 100 points. Just as it looked like they’d succeed in their mission, LSU hit a three-pointer with seconds left on the clock. 

As the clock went down, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, Mulkey couldn’t contain her joy as she held back tears.

Not everyone is thrilled about her win, however. Sports writers are annoyed with Mulkey’s antics and dealings with referees; they make fun of her outfits and heel stomping. Others praise her color and divisiveness. However, it seems Mulkey is not the only woman on the court taking heat. 

On Monday, “Classless” was trending on Twitter, with more than 115,00 tweets that mentioned the word. The trending phrase refers to Reese’s “you can’t see me” gesture she made toward her rival Clark at the end of the game. In the post game press conference, Reese commented on the social media backlash.

“All year I was critiqued about who I was. I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit in the box y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto,” Reese said. “Y’all told me that all year but when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing. So this is for all the girls that look like me.”

In an interview with TODAY, Mulkey defended Reese. She said that after the conference she asked what was going on, and Reese told her she did the same thing Clark had done in a previous game. Mulkey said Reese was upset because they only attacked her, not Clark.

“Listen, that child is a beast on the boards rebounding. That child just won a national championship. She’s not afraid of social media,” Mulkey said. “That is who Angel is. She trash-talks on the court, but she doesn’t cross the line of vulgarity. And she’s not going to apologize for it.”

Although Mulkey is fighting for her players now, she allegedly has a broken relationship with former Baylor player, Brittney Griner, who was unlawfully detained by Russia on Feb. 17, 2022.

In 2013, Griner told ESPN in an interview that Mulkey had told her players not to be open about their sexuality so the program would be more appealing to incoming Baylor recruits. Mulkey had no direct comment on Griner’s claims and instead celebrated her old player for her accomplishments at Baylor.

I can never, and will never condone anyone telling anyone – let alone an authoritative figure to their subordinate – what they can and cannot say about their identity. And while I will never agree with her wholly as a person, I cannot ignore her success – because her win is a win for women’s basketball, and women’s sports overall. 

This season has seen skyrocketing ticket prices and viewership, in part thanks to the great play by LSU’s team. The final game viewership hit a record 9.9 million viewer high, following an increase in overall viewership of 103% for the season.

Mulkey is not perfect – no coach is perfect – but she deserves all the glory that comes with a program’s first NCAA Division I championship. Love her or hate her, we need women like Mulkey in coaching positions. She has an eye for talent and finds the players that make the game worth watching, like Reese.

“I had so many goals coming into LSU, but I didn’t think I was going to win a national championship in my first year,” Reese said in the post game press conference. “Coach Mulkey, I appreciate you. I can’t thank you enough for giving me this opportunity to play under you and get better.”

In an industry dominated by men, where women like me were not allowed in the locker room until 1975, we need influential; impactful women, like Mulkey, in coaching positions. Women like her and Reese are imperative in influencing future champions, their success paves the way for future powerful women who step on the court.

In the same TODAY interview where Mulkey defended Reese, she also commented on her glittery outfits.

“We have LSU graduates that are these famous stylists and designers and they start sending me things and asking me to wear it. And I do,” Reese said. “It helps them, and if it helps somebody buy one more ticket to a women’s basketball game, I’ve done my job.”

Every sequin, heel slam and championship win gets us one step closer to shattering the glass backboard.

About Bella Bakeman 52 Articles
Bella Bakeman is a junior from Berkley, Michigan. She is majoring in English with a Secondary Education Concentration and minoring in Political Science. Bella seeks to bring both joy and justice to her readers. She can be found with a camera around her neck, notebook in hand and pen in her pocket. Contact Bella via email at INB10@albion.edu.

3 Comments

  1. I enjoyed the article by Bella Blakeman about Coach Mulkey. This was the first time I took an interest in Women’s March Madness because of the outfit, the glamour, and the the hype. Plus, the basketball game was exciting! In fact, I didn’t even watch the Men’s tournament this year. Thanks for the article.

  2. My suggestion to Kim is to turn those wrinkles into smooth skin. Not to make her look as a woman who has a younger age, but as s woman who looks beautiful for her age. Damn, maybe didn’t express this correctly: (

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