Column: LSU coach Kim Mulkey manages to go even lower after brawl at SEC championship


Just when you think Kim Mulkey can’t go any lower, the LSU coach manages to defy expectations.

After an ugly brawl broke out in the closing minutes of the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game, Mulkey’s lack of class and character revealed itself again as soon as she spoke up.

Instead of taking the high road — a route that rarely has been on Mulkey’s map throughout her storied career — she essentially called out rival South Carolina for not picking on someone its own size.

Mulkey couldn’t help but note that the trouble started when LSU guard Flau’jae Johnson, who checks in at 5-foot-10, was shoved to the court by 6-7 Gamecocks forward Kamilla Cardoso.

“No one wants to be a part of that. No one wants to see that ugliness,” Mulkey said. “But I can tell you this: I wish she would have pushed Angel Reese.”

In Mulkey’s warped view, that would have been more of a fair fight, since Reese is 6-3 and closer in size to Cardoso.

“Don’t push a kid,” Mulkey said, sounding worse with every ill-chosen word. “Don’t push somebody that little. That was uncalled for, in my opinion. Let those two girls that were jawing, let them go at it.”

Sorry, coach, this is college basketball, not the WWE.

The more proper response came from South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who was downright appalled at what she had witnessed on what should’ve been a day of celebration for her sport.

A much-anticipated matchup between a pair of rivals that captured the last two national championships ended with six players ejected, leaving barely enough to finish the game. (Which, in case you missed it, was won by top-ranked South Carolina 79-72.)

Staley apologized profusely for her team’s actions during the trophy presentation on the court and seemed to grasp far more than Mulkey what sort of impression it left for those watching.

“I just don’t want the people who are tuning in to women’s basketball to see that and think that is our game, because it isn’t,” Staley said. “Our game is a really beautiful thing. To be quite honest, this is a part of it now. So we have to fix it, and we have to move on.”

Back to Mulkey, who seemed to think the root of the problem was the referees swallowing their whistles.

“Do you realize there was only one foul called on each team with two minutes to play in the fourth quarter?” Mulkey said. “Are you kidding me? That might have created some of that.”

That’s utter nonsense, of course, but it’s hardly the first time Mulkey’s moral compass has pointed in the wrong direction.

After all, this is a coach who — despite a glittering record that includes more than 700 wins and four national titles — never has seemed like a champion for women’s sports.

She failed to publicly support perhaps the greatest player she’s ever coached, Brittney Griner, after the former Baylor star was arrested on trumped-up charges in Russia and essentially used as a political pawn by President Vladimir Putin.

Maybe Mulkey was still perturbed at Griner, who is gay, for saying that the then-Baylor coach told players not to be open about their sexuality because it would hurt recruiting and look bad for her program.

“The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor,” Griner said during a 2013 interview with ESPN.

During her long tenure at the Texas university, Mulkey scoffed at two of the worst scandals in college sports history — both of which occurred at the Baptist institution.

First, there was the 2003 murder of a men’s basketball player by one of his teammates, which sparked a probe into allegations ranging from rampant drug use among players to improper payments by the coaching staff.

Then, more than a decade later, the school was accused of covering up numerous cases of sexual assault involving the football team.

Mulkey could’ve issued a harsh rebuke of the embarrassing revelations, or at the very minimum just kept silent about her employer, but she found if necessary to say this after winning her 500th game as the Bears coach:

“If somebody’s around you, and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face,” Mulkey griped.

And this, too: “The problems that we have at Baylor are no different than the problems at any other school in America. Period. Move on. Find another story to write.”

After moving on herself to LSU, Mulkey gave a glimpse of how little she really seems to care about the women she coaches. She called on the NCAA to halt testing for COVID-19 at both the men’s and women’s Final Four in 2021 — even while the world was still in grips of a pandemic that has killed more than a million Americans and many times more around the globe.

Her reasoning was that it wouldn’t be fair to any players who might test positive and not be allowed to play.

“Wouldn’t it be a shame to keep COVID testing and then you’ve got kids that end up having tested positive or something, and they don’t get to play in the Final Four,” she opined. “So you need to just forget the COVID tests and let the four teams that are playing in each Final Four go battle it out.”

Mulkey was back to spouting more nonsense on Sunday, which only solidified what we’ve long known.

As a basketball coach, she’s one of the best ever.

As a leader of young people, she leaves a lot to be desired.

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Paul Newberry is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry@ap.org

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll



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