Kim Mulkey Hired as LSU WCBB Head Coach; Led Baylor to 3 National Championships

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2021

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey yells out to the team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)
Brad Tollefson/Associated Press

LSU has tasked Kim Mulkey with making the Tigers a national champion again.

The school announced Sunday it hired Mulkey as its women's basketball coach, bringing an end to her wildly successful spell at Baylor.

"Kim Mulkey is a champion and a Hall of Famer, and we are thrilled to welcome her home," athletic director Scott Woodward said. "Her accomplishments are unprecedented, her passion is unrivaled, and her commitment to winning in all aspects of life—in the classroom, on the court, and in the community—is unparalleled. We look forward to working with her as she instills that championship culture at LSU."

Baylor Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mack B. Rhoades IV issued a statement about the 58-year-old's departure:

"We are grateful for the more than two decades Kim Mulkey poured into building Baylor women's basketball to one of the nation's premier programs. Coach Mulkey's sustained success is one of the most remarkable runs in college basketball history, and her accomplishments are worthy of the Naismith Hall of Fame induction she'll experience later this year."

Rhoades went on to say a search for a new head coach is already underway.

Rumors linking Mulkey to the LSU vacancy gained steam in recent days. The university confirmed Saturday that Nikki Fargas was resigning, with the Associated Press' Doug Feinberg reporting April 16 she was in discussions to take over as the Las Vegas Aces' team president.

Mulkey was also a star at Louisiana Tech after having grown up in the state, so this represents a return home for the legendary head coach.

Still, it remains a bit of a surprise to see Mulkey leave behind a program she helped turn into a powerhouse. When Mulkey arrived ahead of the 2000-01 season, the Lady Bears hadn't reached the NCAA tournament once. They proceeded to make the Final Four on four occasions and win three national titles, the most recent of which came in 2019.

While serving as AD at Texas A&M, Woodward handed Jimbo Fisher a 10-year, $75 million contract to help get the Aggies to the next level on the gridiron. Bringing Mulkey to Baton Rouge shows a similar level of intent.

LSU made five straight Final Fours from 2004 to 2008, with Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles playing starring roles for the Tigers. Since then, the program has yet to return to those heights, only advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2013 and 2014. The Tigers reached a low point in 2020-21 as they went 9-13 and finished eighth in the loaded SEC.

The 2,036 fans LSU averaged per game in 2019-20 illustrated the general lack of buzz around the team. South Carolina, by comparison, had an NCAA-high 12,218 fans at its games.

Mulkey will need a few years to make the Tigers relevant on a national scale again, but her arrival provides an immediate boost.