Profile of LSU’s Tigers women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey in Washington Post details rifts


Hours before LSU tipped off its Sweet 16 matchup against UCLA on Saturday, The Washington Post published its highly anticipated profile of coach Kim Mulkey, painting a portrait of a complex woman with a singular drive and unrelenting loyalty that has alienated some family members and impacted her coaching style.

The story touched on all aspects of her life — including her upbringing in rural Louisiana, her estrangement from her father and sister, her coaching style and the way that it impacts her players. It also detailed some of her controversies — such as Mulkey’s relationships with a number of gay players, including Brittney Griner, who was imprisoned in Russia for 294 days in 2022.

Mulkey was not aware of the story’s release when she spoke to ESPN’s Holly Rowe before Saturday’s game. “You’re telling me something I didn’t know,” Mulkey said. “So you’re the bearer of good news or bad news or however you want to look at it.

“Are you really surprised? Are you really surprised by the timing of it,” Mulkey responded rhetorically. “But I can tell you I haven’t read it, don’t know that I will read it. I’ll leave that up to my attorneys.”

All eyes were on the Post for the past week, after Mulkey threatened legal action against the newspaper in a statement she read before LSU’s second-round game against Middle Tennessee.

During that news conference, Mulkey said of Post reporter Kent Babb: “The lengths he has gone to try to put a hit piece together. After two years of trying to get me to sit with him for an interview, he contacts LSU on Tuesday as we were getting ready for the first-round game of this tournament with more than a dozen questions, demanding a response … right before we’re scheduled to tip off. Are you kidding me?

“Not many people are in a position to hold these kinds of journalists accountable, but I am, and I’ll do it.”

The Post cited interviews with former players and news reports that describe Mulkey as being “known to hold grudges and clash with players, including about their appearances and displays of their sexuality.”

Griner is the player with whom she has had the most public falling-out, and that was made even clearer after Griner was imprisoned in Russia. Mulkey refused to speak publicly about the situation, except one instance with a local radio station.

Former LSU players told the Post that those within the program avoided mentioning Griner or commenting on social media posts that supported her.

Mulkey’s former Louisiana Tech teammate Mickie DeMoss told the Post:

“I really was hoping that Kim would make a statement. Really hoping she would. You’ve got a kid that’s stuck in Russia; I mean, that’s bigger than any feud that y’all had. No one knew how long they were going to detain her over there. We were all hoping (Mulkey) could just rise above it for that moment. Just get her back home. But she didn’t.”

Through her attorneys, Mulkey denied any suggestion that she failed to support Griner.

Other players detailed problems they had with Mulkey when they played for her. Kelli Griffin, who played for Mulkey from 2007 to 2010, told the Post, “Kim Mulkey is an amazing coach; the reason I went to Baylor is because of her.” But Griffin also told the newspaper, “She made my life hell,” by drawing attention to her clothes. Griffin said she believes a suspension she received was a result of Mulkey finding out she was gay. That suspension ended Griffin’s career.

In a letter to the Post, Mulkey’s attorneys denied she treated gay players “more harshly or differently.”

Emily Niemann, who joined Baylor in 2003, told the Post she was called into Mulkey’s office for a meeting after being seen on campus with a woman.

Niemann told the Post that Mulkey said to her, “It’s not a good look.” Niemann ultimately transferred, but later wrote in a piece for OutSports that she “did not leave Baylor because Coach Mulkey is homophobic.”

The Post also interviewed Mulkey’s father, Les, and sister, Tammy, and visited the farmland where she grew up in Louisiana. She has not spoken to her father in 37 years and has rebuffed his attempts at reconciliation, the Post reported. Mulkey also had a falling-out with Tammy, though she would not disclose to the Post what happened. “I just miss the memories,” Tammy told the Post. “I wish I could have it all back.”

Through her attorneys, Mulkey said she was upset the Post contacted her family members, though she goes into detail about them in her 2007 autobiography, “Won’t Back Down.”

In the statement she issued last week, Mulkey accused Babb of trying to trick her former assistant coaches into speaking with him by giving them the false impression that Mulkey had acquiesced to being interviewed. She added that former players told her that the Post “contacted them and offered to let them be anonymous in a story if they’ll say negative things about me.”

The portrait that emerged was not necessarily one that painted her in a completely negative light. There were flattering comments. Niemann told the Post that Mulkey’s coaching style was intense and “emotionally draining. On the other hand, it gets results.” Her former coach at Louisiana Tech, Sonja Hogg, told the Post, “She wants perfection. That’s what she was always seeking.”

Mulkey, 61, is in her third season at LSU, which signed her to a 10-year, $36 million extension after she won her fourth national title as a coach last season. She won three titles with Baylor, along with two as a player at Louisiana Tech and a gold medal as a player for Team USA at the 1984 Olympic Games.

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