New LSU women's coach Kim Mulkey has won titles amid scandal, controversy | Guilbeau

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE - I can see Kim Mulkey now in a pantsuit in the Green and Gold of Baylor.

She will wear it when LSU plays for the national championship in women's basketball one April over the next five years.

At the moment, neither the LSU women nor the LSU men have ever played in a national championship basketball game, though the school's programs have combined to reach nine Final Fours. The women went to five from 2004-08, but lost the national semifinal each time. The men lost four national semifinals in 1953, 1981, 1986 and 2006 and two consolation games in 1953 and '81 for a whopping 0-11.

Mulkey, who won three national championships at Baylor in 2005, 2012 and 2019, may change that, if men's coach Will Wade survives an NCAA investigation and does not do it first.

More:LSU football to strip Derrius Guice's name from record books, cut ties with longtime law firm

More:Orgeron not testifying 'troubling,' says committee head; other LSU officials also not appearing

More:LSU whistleblower's complaint may lead to second federal lawsuit after filing with EEOC

Mulkey, 58, has agreed to be LSU's new women's coach for $2.5 million a year.

"Kim Mulkey is a champion and a Hall of Famer," LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said Sunday in announcing the hire.

She will be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame on May 15 at the Mohegan Sun resort by none other than Michael Jordan. How's that for LSU recruiting?

Mulkey also won two national championships while playing point guard for Louisiana Tech in 1982 and '83 after winning four state titles at Hammond High from 1977-80. Oh, and she won gold for the United States Olympic team in 1984.

In this April 7, 2019 file photo Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, left, waves the net while standing with daughter and assistant coach Makenzie Fuller and Fuller's son, Kannon Reid Fuller, after the Final Four championship game of the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Tampa, Fla.

Mulkey has navigated a scandal before

LSU, with a football program and athletic department embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal that involves a $50 million whistleblower lawsuit by an associate athletic director in the football office, the U.S. Department of Education, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a Louisiana Senate Select Committee, is starving for this kind of good news.

No matter how much it costs, as Mulkey will be paid less than only football coach Ed Orgeron and about the same as Wade.

And Mulkey navigated probably the worst men's basketball scandal in history at Baylor as she was driving toward her first national championship in 2005.

At the Final Four that year, she was asked about the saga, which did not involve the women's program and had been around for three years longer than the one at LSU now.

"Old news," she said. "Nothing else can be written that hasn't been written."

There is likely much more to be written about the one at LSU, but it does not involve the women's basketball program. And Mulkey tends to just run over and coach over anything that comes in her path and doesn't mind telling folks about it.

New leadership:LSU president candidate interviews start Monday. Here's how you can watch

Protecting faculty:LSU, UL presidents weighing all options against COVID-19

That is why she wore a pantsuit in brilliant baby blue - the Lady Techsters colors - for the national championship game against Michigan State in 2005 two nights after disposing of LSU, 68-57, in the national semifinals after trailing 24-9.

Baylor beat Michigan State, 84-62 for the 2005 title, and Mulkey wanted to remind the Louisiana Tech people who refused to give her a five-year contract for the head coaching job in 2000 exactly what they could have had. Mulkey had been associate head coach at Louisiana Tech since 1996 and an assistant since 1985. Louisiana Tech has not been much since Mulkey left as it reached only one more Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s in the early 2000s after she went to Baylor. Tech has not been to the NCAA Tournament in a decade.

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey calls out to her team as they compete against Texas during an NCAA basketball game in Austin, Monday, March, 1, 2021.

"This is one of many more to come," she said after that first title at Baylor as she must have known she would win at least two more.

Mulkey's experience could help LSU

Mulkey knows her own controversies amid scandal as well. On the heels of the sexual assault scandal with the Baylor football team, Mulkey said after her 500th win in 2017, “If somebody is around you and they ever say ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face.''

She apologized two days later.

Scott Schneider, the lead investigator for the Husch Blackwell firm that examined LSU's sexual assault scandal, compared the scandal to Baylor's last March.

"One of the lessons from the Baylor situation was you don't want athletics to be overly involved," Schneider said.

He then made a point about why Title IX offices should investigate sexual assault cases at universities and not athletic department personnel like LSU associate athletic directors Miriam Segar and Verge Ausberry, or Baylor football coach Art Briles, who was fired for his role.

"The biggest lesson is you might be really good at coaching football, but I guarantee you that you're not going to be really good at these sorts of investigations," he said.

Mulkey won it all and saw it all at Baylor.

Not only will she make LSU women's basketball relevant again, she may be able to advise LSU athletic department personnel and coaches what not to do and what not to say involving a variety of sordid investigations.