Do not believe that Kim Mulkey becoming the new head women’s basketball coach at LSU is about her following her heart back to her native state.
Mulkey’s departure from Waco to Baton Rouge has been in the works for years.
Mulkey was introduced as the new coach Monday at LSU.
This should never have happened, and yet it was also inevitable for it to happen.
Mulkey won three national titles at Baylor, turned the program into an annual power, and generated notoriety with her fiery personality and foot-in-mouth candor, but her relationship with the school’s administration was toast.
According to sources familiar with the situation, her relationship with current athletic director Mack Rhoades was less than great, and she was never aligned with the administration how it handled the Art Briles situation back in 2015.
Sources said when LSU made its offer she went to Baylor for a counter, and to address her list of concerns, but both Rhoades and Baylor president Linda Livingstone passed.
This was another case of LSU athletic director Scott Woodward simply money whipping a frustrated coach, the way he did while he was at Texas A&M when he buried Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher in cash to come to College Station.
When Jimbo left Florida State after the 2017 season, he was tired of the school and the school was tired of him.
In Mulkey’s situation, the fractures in Waco began in May of 2016, when Baylor fired Briles and athletic director Ian McCaw resigned.
Mulkey’s relationship with the new administration was never quite as good as the previous regimeand things came to a head over a new basketball arena, of all things.
When the school announced plans to build the new basketball facility to replace the Ferrell Center, the new building was scheduled to be constructed near the old site.
However, as the school has grown it has discussed building the new arena closer to downtown Waco, which is off campus and across I-35. Waco is currently trying to construct a mixed-use site near the Brazos River, and an arena would be a potential anchor and draw for commercial businesses.
Mulkey was unhappy with the decision, and has fought the school on the new construction plans.
Some sources contended she also lobbied for the court at the new arena to be named after her, but other sources said that point was never mentioned.
While she is a Hall of Fame coach and one of the most successful active ones in basketball — women’s or men’s basketball — her status in Waco and within the school has changed since Baylor won the national title in 2005.
For a while, Mulkey and her team were the Baylor athletic department’s biggest point of pride.
The football program was a zero, and the men’s basketball team was a disgrace.
The football program has become more relevant, and the men’s basketball program under Scott Drew has just won a national title.
Although Mulkey’s teams won three national titles, including as recently as 2019, when the two revenue sports are relevant and winning, it knocks a women’s basketball program down the pecking order in an athletic department. Mulkey would not have as much pull as she once did.
Considering her personality, that change of status would not have suited her.
Not sure how that’s going to play out in Baton Rouge, but that’s LSU’s problem.
Nonetheless, a relationship that began in 2000 when Baylor hired Mulkey away from Louisiana Tech should not have ended like this. Her departure is a loss for Baylor, for the sport of basketball in Texas, and the Big 12.
Mulkey, 57, should have ended her career at Baylor and been granted some type of “head coach emerita” status, like Marsha Sharp at Texas Tech.
Mulkey is expected to make about $2.8 million a year at LSU, a small bump from her reported $2.27 million salary she earned at Baylor.
This was not all about money.
This was not about “going home.”
This was about fatigue, and a relationship that was over.