Coming back home

Kelsey O’Loughlin, Senior Writer

This past year, Kim Mulkey returned to Baton Rouge, La. as head coach of the LSU women’s basketball team. Before coming to LSU, Mulkey coached the Baylor University women’s team from 1999-2021. leading the Bears to their first ever tournament appearance in her first year of coaching in 2000. With patience and victory, winning at least 20 games in every season except one, the pinnacle was finally achieved in 2005 when the lady bears won their first national title against Michigan State.

The move to Baton Rouge was not easy. During her press conference, she was vulnerable in her situation and the difficulty that came with it. It was hard to leave something that she spent so much time and energy building. Leaving the people, players, and experiences that have been with her for the last 22 years.

When you dedicate yourself to a special place and people with a high level of unwavering passion and intensity, it’s hard to let go. The conversation between her and LSU’s athletic director Scott Woodward was no more than 15 minutes long. They discussed many things that the public will never know, but most importantly they agreed on the fact that the experience for her at LSU and with her players is going to be about more than just basketball.

Coach Mulkey has been a winner her whole life. She grew up in Tickfaw, La., an hour down the road from Baton Rouge. She was the only girl on her elementary school baseball team and was named an all-star. In high school, she won four state titles and led her team to the first ever NCAA Women’s basketball championship at Louisiana Tech in 1982. With her title win in 2005, she became the first ever to win a national title as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

More than her success on the basketball court, Mulkey is a trailblazer and mentor for young women through sport. Every person she has ever coached has walked away from the program with their degree.

This hire speaks to the magnitude of the institution of LSU and their prioritization of women’s athletics. The former head coach of the Tiger’s basketball team, Nikki Fargas, left LSU to pursue a job with Las Vegas Aces. The tradition of LSU basketball stems back to the early days of Mulkey’s tenure at Baylor. The Tigers made five NCAA final fours in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. They also reached eight NCAA elite eights and 14 NCAA sweet 16s.

Mulkey faced off against LSU as a player and a head coach. The first encounter was during her playing career at LA Tech, when they beat the Tigers as the number one seed in 1984. In the 2005 final four, the Baylor Bears defeated the Tigers 68-57 as the fifth year head coach for Baylor. Mulkey and her squad went on to win the national championship that season.

Mulkey watched from afar as her home team had a run of success and a taste of glory. As a Louisiana native, she is happy to say she has finally returned home.

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