Angel Reese is feeling support from all sides, including from LSU head coach Kim Mulkey.
“Our team is predominantly Black. We have two white girls on our team, but they support us in everything that we do. They’ve always had our back in everything, I never have to worry about Coach Kim – she gets crazy,” Reese said Tuesday on the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast.
Speaking after her team’s national championship win, the LSU star pointed to Mulkey’s acceptance of her Black players as key to the Tigers’ chemistry and success.
“She’s hip to what we’ve got going on,” Reese said. “So she kind of has to accept the fact that we are who we are, and I think that she embraces that. She loves us for who we are.”
Yet not all of Mulkey’s players during her decades-long coaching career have felt the same level of support. Brittney Griner had a falling-out with the coach after her playing career at Baylor, as detailed in a 2013 profile on the pair’s tenuous relationship.
In the profile, Griner’s father told ESPN’s Kate Fagan that once Baylor lost to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament to end Griner’s collegiate career, Mulkey didn’t contact his daughter again.
“It’s about dollar signs,” Raymond Griner told Fagan. “There’s nothing in it for Kim anymore, so she’s done with Brittney.”
The article also revealed more tension between the two, specifically around Griner’s sexuality. During her time with the Bears, Mulkey did not want the star to talk about her sexuality, Griner said, although her being gay was an “open secret.”
During Griner’s time at Baylor, Mulkey was outwardly supportive of her star center. She even addressed the hate Griner received online during a 2012 NCAA Tournament press conference, stating that Griner was a “human being.”
But during Griner’s 10-month detention in Russia in 2022, Mulkey notably declined to comment on her former player’s plight.
Several other former Baylor players were critical of Mulkey during that time, including Queen Egbo and NaLyssa Smith. But Alexis Morris, who played on LSU’s title-winning team and previously played for Mulkey at Baylor before being dismissed following an arrest, had been vocally supportive of the coach.
Griner and Mulkey have not spoken since the WNBA star returned from Russia, with Mulkey saying ahead of the Final Four that she’s “glad she’s safe, she’s sound” despite their lack of contact.
When asked about her relationships with her former players during the same news conference, Mulkey said she does not remain in contact with every player she’s coached.
“Let me make it clear. You’re not in contact with all your former players,” she said. “Some don’t like you. Then you’ve got those that you stay in contact with… But you hope that, when your career is over, you have more that love you and like you and appreciate you than don’t.”