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Kim Mulkey breaks silence on Brittney Griner after WNBA star’s release

Brittney Griner and Kim Mulkey celebrate after Baylor’s national title win in 2012. (Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey broke her silence on Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia after the WNBA star’s release from captivity was announced Thursday.

Mulkey coached Griner at Baylor from 2009-13 but previously had declined to speak on her former player’s plight.

A reporter noted to Mulkey in September that he hadn’t seen any comments from her on the WNBA star. “And you won’t,” the coach responded.

Griner, 32, was detained in Russia in February on drug charges, and she remained in custody for 294 days. The Phoenix Mercury center was convicted and sentenced in August to nine years in a Russian penal colony in a trial U.S. officials called a sham.

The Biden administration negotiated a prisoner swap, in which Russia released Griner in exchange for the United States’ release of arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“God is good. Prayers are powerful. Brittney is on her way home where she belongs,” Mulkey said in a statement to ESPN. “Our prayers remain with her and her family as they recover and heal together.”

Before Thursday, Mulkey’s only known comment about Griner’s situation came in June on the Tiger Rag podcast. The coach said at the time that while she was keeping up with the news “as far as what’s in the national media,” she was opting to remain silent publicly.

“I think that’s a personal issue,” she said. “You just want everybody to come home safely. And I pray for Brittney, I want her home safely. I think there’s lots of people speaking out on her behalf. Those of us who don’t necessarily speak publicly about it certainly are praying for her.”

Baylor women’s basketball coach Nicki Collen, who took over for Mulkey in 2021, issued a statement celebrating Griner’s release.

“After nearly 10 months, we are thrilled and relieved to hear the long-awaited news of BG’s return,” she said. “Today is the day we’ve been praying for, and we will continue to pray as she reunites with her family and begins recovering from her experience. Baylor family, she’s coming home!”

Collen has been vocal in her support for Griner this year, and the Bears are wearing jersey patches to honor her this season.

“BG’s family. She’s Baylor family,” Collen said in September. “To me, anything we can do to help her and her family is important.”