Before Kim Mulkey came to LSU, the women’s basketball program had not advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2014.
The veteran coach brought the Tigers back in just her second year on the job. Mulkey, though, has sought to temper expectations for her team ahead of Friday’s game against Utah.
“We’re doing things at a very fast pace,” she said. “We might be feeding that monster too quickly.
“But it sure beats the heck out of losing.”
Before she came to LSU, Mulkey spent 21 seasons as the Baylor head coach. During her run with the Bears, she won three NCAA Tournament titles (in 2005, 2012 and 2019) and made four appearances in the Final Four.
When she decided to head back to her home state to join LSU, she took over a program without any national championships but with a strong pedigree, including five Final Four appearances. All of those came in consecutive years, from 2004 through 2008. But the Tigers had not advanced past the sweet 16 since then, and they finished just 9-13 overall in the season before Mulkey took the helm.
“LSU has been to Sweet 16s before,” she told reporters Thursday. “The LSU folks love winners. But I don’t think anybody could be fair and say that we were going to do this in two years or even do what we did last year in the first year.”
In Mulkey’s first season, LSU finished 26-6 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In her second season, the team is 30-2 so far and has made it one step further in the NCAA Tournament, with a Sweet 16 game against No. 2 seed Utah up next at 5 p.m. ET Friday.
Yet despite engineering the rapid ascent for No. 3 seed LSU, Mulkey wants to warn against “expectations that may not be fair or real” for the program.
“People start expecting things,” she said. “So we won one game last year. We have exceeded last year’s. What are they going to expect next year? How are they going to feel if we don’t beat Utah? Come on now, keep perspective.”
Still, while the coach is happy with the development she has seen from her team, she isn’t discounting the possibility of a win against the Utes.
“I wanted this year for our team to show progress, and we have,” she said. “We’ve shown progress. I don’t think there’s any area that we went backwards. That’s what you want to keep doing. If along the way of showing that progress, you do something unexpected, it’s fun.”
See you all in Greenville!! 💜💛 https://t.co/H6rcKGp64n— Kim Mulkey (@KimMulkey) March 22, 2023
See you all in Greenville!! 💜💛 https://t.co/H6rcKGp64n