If you’re waiting for a Mulkey apology, you’ll be on hold forever

The more I read and hear the last couple of days from national journalists that LSU head women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey is a soulless terrible human being and a Salem witch on the bayou. . .

“As a leader of young people, she leaves a lot to be desired,” writes Paul Newberry of the Associated Press.

The more I realize. . .

“She wears so many feathers and sequins, it’s a wonder there’s any left for the Mardi Gras krewes,” writes Nancy Armour of USA Today.

And the more I understand. . .

“We’ve got to start doing a better job of holding Kim Mulkey accountable and responsible for some of her comments,” said ESPN self-proclaimed sports watchdog Shannon Sharpe, who last season got in a courtside verbal confrontation with two Memphis Grizzlies players during a Lakers’ game.

I’d like to be back in college again and coached by someone as passionate as Mulkey, somebody so demanding of giving it your best and so fiercely loyal about protecting her players.

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Elite players like current Tigers’ starters Angel Reese, Aneesah Morrow and Hailey Van Lith transferred to LSU because they wanted to be coached hard by Mulkey, who makes them better players and stronger women for life.

They know when Mulkey opens her mouth, she says what she means, and she means what she says.

It isn’t usually candy-coated. It often isn’t politically correct. And you may disagree with her viewpoint and straightforward delivery most of the time.

But she’s authentic in a business full of phonies and snowflakes selling mountains of malarkey to anyone who’ll listen.

Because of that, Mulkey’s always on call to be burned to the stake by the hordes of her haters, angry and aghast that she doesn’t fit in their imaginary little box of what a demure coach of “little ladies” and “gals” should be.

Like her spot-on assessment of the officiating crew of Pulani Spurlock-Welsh, Angelica Suffren, and Kevin Pethtel that allowed Sunday’s SEC championship game won 79-72 by No. 1 South Carolina over No. 8 LSU to turn into a 40-minute street fight full of trash talk, demeaning gestures, hair pulling, forearm shivers to the neck and thrown elbows galore.

It finally culminated with 128 seconds left when LSU guard Flau’jae Johnson’s perfectly legal intentional foul turned into a near-brawl. She shoved aside the second of two Gamecocks mouthing in her face as she walked to the bench, only to be leveled by 6-7 South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso, who took a running start to deliver the cheap shot.

Afterward, South Carolina coach “Saint” Dawn Staley apologized for the fracas, a gesture immediately deemed by internet keyboard warriors as “classy.”

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Maybe it occurred to Saint Dawn she should be the one apologizing because she stood frozen in her tracks when Cardoso bull-rushed Johnson.

Mulkey didn’t apologize in her post-game press conference.

Instead, she correctly addressed how the game got to the point of no return.

“Do you realize there was only one foul called on each team with two minutes to play in the fourth quarter?” Mulkey said. “Are you kidding me? That might have created some of that. Not the way we play. We gonna foul your ass. Not the way they play. They’re going to foul your ass. But you only blew that whistle one time? Think about that now.”

My heavens, Delores. Did that hussy coach just say “ass?”

Staley and Mulkey coach like they played the game once upon as college stars for Virginia and Louisiana Tech respectively. They turn it loose. They push officiating to the limit until told otherwise. All is fair in love, war and basketball, and that includes shoving, fighting, clawing and jawing for every rebound and every loose ball.

The problem Sunday was the officiating crew didn’t nip it in the bud immediately. They had to see Reese and Cardoso hammering each other in the low post. They had to notice mouthy South Carolina freshman guard Milaysia Fulwiley give the “too small” sign twice when she drove both times past Van Lith. They couldn’t ignore the incessant digs between the teams almost every time someone made a play.

If the officials intended to “let the teams play” and not whistle foul after foul, they certainly accomplished that. But the behavior was never curbed.

Most officiating crews handle such a situation after a couple of excessive fouls or staredowns or whatever is said to aggravate or intimidate. They call both head coaches to midcourt in front of the scoring table and advise they’ll start handing out technical fouls like lunch money if the coaches don’t get their players to cut out the extracurriculars.

What’s even worse is Sunday’s crew, supposedly veterans who have called NCAA tourney and even Final Four games, were clueless beforehand of the emotional temperature that already existed between the Tigers and the Gamecocks.

And especially this time around in their second hotly contested game this season, both won by South Carolina.

With Reese gutting it out on a badly sprained ankle, Johnson playing extended minutes and cramping constantly, Van Lith simply bruised and beat to hell by constant collisions fighting through screens and point guard Last Tear-Poa not playing because of a concussion suffered in Saturday’s semifinals win over Ole Miss, short-handed LSU doubled down on its fight and determination against South Carolina’ 10-player deep roster.

Mulkey recognized how hard her team had played, which is why near the end of her press conference she said the following about the late-game scuffle.

“It’s ugly. It’s not good. No one wants to be a part of that. No one wants to see that ugliness. But I can tell you this: I wish she would have pushed Angel Reese. Don’t push a kid – you’re 6-8. Don’t push somebody that little. That was uncalled for, in my opinion. Let those two girls that were jawing, let them go at it.”

That’s the part of Mulkey’s quote that fueled her critics, questioning if she’s condoning her players’ use of violence and demanding she apologize.

Here’s some advice for the Mulkey haters. You better pack a year’s worth of supplies if you’re camping out waiting for an “I’m sorry” from her.

She’s not apologizing and has no reason to do so.

“I am what I am,” Mulkey said on her weekly Tuesday appearance on the Baton Rouge radio sports talk show Off The Bench. “I have no ill intentions. I have no agenda. I speak from my heart. I speak from my life experiences. And people like it or don’t like it. I have nothing, nothing whatsoever in my heart to harm anybody.”

That’s who she was as a 12-year-old, the only girl playing in an all-boys summer baseball league in Hammond because there were no girl leagues.

That’s who she was as a pint-sized point guard who won four state championships for Hammond High, two national championships for Louisiana Tech and an Olympic gold medal.

That’s who she’s been for 39 years as a college coach – 24 seasons and four national titles as a head coach, 15 seasons and a 1988 national championship as Leon Barmore’s chief assistant at Tech.

That’s who she’s been throughout a career that got her inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021 as part of the Class of 2020.

“I fight like hell,” Mulkey said. “That’s who I am.”

Round 3, anyone?

Contact Ron at [email protected]

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