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Kim Mulkey’s decision to leave Baylor for the head coaching job at LSU on Sunday shook up women’s college basketball.
On Monday, she made her first public comments during an introductory rally at the Maravich Center on LSU’s campus.
Here are our biggest takeaways from the press conference.
She’s not here to mess around
At Baylor, Mulkey won three NCAA championships, 12 regular-season Big 12 titles and 11 Big 12 tournament titles in 21 seasons. Prior to Mulkey’s arrival in Waco, Texas, the program had never even made the NCAA Tournament.
Mulkey made it clear during her introductory press conference that she plans to bring LSU to new heights. The Tigers last made the Final Four in 2008.
“I want you to see those banners behind you, right there … nowhere on there does it say ‘national champion,'” Mulkey said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. Let me remind you, rabid LSU fans, that can be crazy and want coaches fired tomorrow: Give it time.
“But I can assure you, that’s what I came here to do.”
It wasn’t an easy decision
Mulkey has spent 21 years molding Baylor into one of the premier women’s college basketball teams in the country. Despite reports that Mulkey’s relationships with Baylor president Linda Livingstone and athletic director Mike Rhoades were strained, Mulkey said Monday that the decision to leave was very difficult.
“My eyes are swollen from many a tear,” she said. “I have had so many sleepless nights. Because when your heart is invested in something so intensely and so passionately, it’s hard to let go.
“Yet when your heart also says it’s time to move on and accept your next challenge, and it’s at home … it just kept weighing on me. Something felt right here. I would not have left Baylor for any other school except LSU.”
Money played a role, but it wasn’t the deciding factor
At Baylor, Mulkey was reportedly making around $2.27 million per year in salary. That will increase at LSU, where it’s been reported that she’ll earn between $2.5 million and $2.8 million annually, making her one of the highest paid women’s college basketball coaches in the nation.
“How do you get a coach to leave an institution that has had so much success? I think that’s what everybody’s wondering,” Mulkey said. “And the first thing you’re gonna wonder is, ‘God, she got a boatload of money.’ My boat does not float because of money. I wanted resources that I could sell to young people. I wanted an institution that I could be proud of. I wanted resources to hire a staff to make me look good. Those things have happened.
“Yes, it did take some money to get me away from Baylor, but that wasn’t the deciding factor. Timing in everybody’s life is so important. If it doesn’t feel right at that time in your life, you don’t do it. It just felt right, the timing in my life.”
Regardless, the money certainly must have been enticing.
Mulkey is excited to be back home
Mulkey grew up in Louisiana and played college basketball at Louisiana Tech before starting her coaching career there as an assistant in 1985. She mentioned many times Monday how much it meant to her to be returning to her home state.
“I had many opportunities to leave,” Mulkey said. “This is the only one that could get me to leave. Thank you again for bringing me back home.”
Mulkey also talked about her shared Tangipahoa Parish roots with Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards, who was in attendance Monday.
“When you grow up, you don’t forget where you come from. … This state made us who we were. I appreciate you being here. I appreciate what you mean to the state of Louisiana,” Mulkey said. “It’s just so unbelievably comfortable for me to come back to my roots.”
She even brought up local food, talking about how much she missed Ponchatoula strawberries and crawfish.
“You think I’m being funny, but it’s the God’s truth: I miss my food from Louisiana,” Mulkey said. “I can now tell Boudreaux and Thibodaux jokes and people don’t look at me like I’ve lost my mind.”
Mulkey then ended the press conference by channeling football coach Ed Orgeron with a “Geaux Tigahs.”
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