Kim Mulkey during the second round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament in Baton Rouge. | Scott Clause / USA TODAY NETWORK

“I’ve hired the best defamation law firm in the country and I will sue the Washington Post if they publish a false story about me,” LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey said preemptively in a news conference last week, prompting even more chatter around one of the top-ranked teams in the NCAA tournament.

“Not many people are in a position to hold these kinds of journalists accountable, but I am. And I’ll do it.”

A hit dog will holler, as the expression goes, and in Streisandian fashion her disavowal only spurred more questions from the public into what kind of dirt the Washington Post might be sitting on.

A week later, those questions only remain half-answered as the story was finally released, a wide-ranging profile of Mulkey penned by Kent Babb.

The piece itself was mildly critical, including accounts from former players alleging homophobia from Mulkey, but also lauded her for her unmatched results on the court.

“She’s an icon and a winner, one of the best motivators and teachers any sport has seen,” the Washington Post profile exalts.

While not shying away from the more difficult facets of her personality, none of this is a revelation that the most infamous heel in women’s college ball is, in fact, a heel, and is satisfied in continuing to play that role she’s shaped for herself.

More than a decade ago, Mulkey dismissed questions from Outsports about the acceptance of gay players on the team back during her coaching tenure at Baylor, saying, “Don’t ask me that. I don’t ask that. I don’t think it’s anybody’s business. Whoever you are. I don’t care to know that.”

A month later, Brittney Griner confirmed the team’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a culture of silence that kept her in the closet in the public eye until after graduating Baylor in 2013. Of course, her attorneys have since “rebutted any suggestion that she failed to support Griner,” according to the Washington Post.

The contradictions in Muley’s approach were highlighted in the Post article.

“Kim Mulkey is an amazing coach; the reason I went to Baylor is because of her,” says Kelli Griffin, who played for Mulkey from 2007 to 2010. But, Griffin says, “She made my life hell” by drawing attention to Griffin’s clothes and issuing a suspension that ultimately ended the player’s career. And she believes it started after Mulkey found out she was gay.

Mulkey’s attorneys, in letters to The Post, denied that Mulkey treated gay players “more harshly or differently.” They provided an affidavit from former Baylor player Morghan Medlock, who said that she was in a relationship with Griffin and that she never witnessed Mulkey mistreat Griffin or other gay athletes. Former Baylor and LSU player Alexis Morris put it more bluntly to ESPN: “Coach Mulkey is not homophobic.”

Washington Post

Now heading the program LSU, it’s unclear whether Mulkey has changed or how the baggage she brings with her in her history of overt dismissal of LGBTQ athletes has an impact on the team.

Now set for an Elite 8 rematch of last year’s final against Iowa in a historic rivalry that may be permanently changing how women’s college basketball is viewed in this country, the LSU players themselves have nothing to prove. But who is left off the roster may beg more questions regarding Mulkey’s character when it comes to LGBTQ players.

Toward the end of 2023, Mulkey cryptically announced that junior guard Kateri Poole, who uses they/them pronouns, was “no longer with us.”

Whether Poole was dropped from the team and why or if it was their decision to leave, is still unclear, and the lack of information around the issue has led to greater speculation from fans about the kind of environment Mulkey builds around her.

LSU will have a chance to prove themselves again on Monday against the superpowered Hawkeyes and Caitlin Clark, and their success or failure will come in spite of the one-clown circus that Mulkey has been drawing around herself this tournament, not thanks to her.

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