Kim Mulkey crossed line with comments on LSU, South Carolina players fighting

Never underestimate Kim Mulkey’s ability to make a situation worse.

The ugliness that marred the end of the SEC tournament title game Sunday afternoon called for restraint, common sense and a dose of humility from both coaches.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley understood this, apologizing for the Gamecocks’ role in the melée that began when Flau’jae Johnson intentionally fouled MiLaysia Fulwiley and bumped Ashlyn Watkins, and escalated when Kamilla Cardoso shoved the much-smaller Johnson to the floor.

LSU coach Kim Mulkey manages to go even lower after brawl at SEC  championship - Newsday

It was not what South Carolina’s program was about, Staley said, and it would be addressed. Not long after, Cardoso put out an apology on social media.

Mulkey, however, went in the opposite direction. She started off OK, saying, “No one wants to see that ugliness.”

Then she veered into WWE territory.

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“But I can tell you this: I wish she would’ve pushed Angel Reese. Don’t push a kid — you’re 6-foot-8 — don’t push somebody that little. That was uncalled for in my opinion,” Mulkey said. “Let those two girls that were jawing, let them go at it.”

That’s right. A Hall of Famer whose job is equal parts coach and teacher, advocating for a hockey-style brawl that could, in theory, seriously injure someone. Her own star player included.

Column: LSU coach Kim Mulkey manages to go even lower after brawl at SEC  championship - ABC News

It doesn’t matter if it was said in jest or Mulkey was trying to make the point that Cardoso shouldn’t have gone after someone nine inches shorter. The mere suggestion was wildly inappropriate, and it only served to further inflame tensions between the two teams.

To be clear: There is no excuse for what Cardoso did. The hair pulling, the shoving and the overt physicality by LSU players during the game are not equal bad acts and in no way justify what South Carolina’s best player did.

Nor should Johnson’s brother coming out of the stands afterward and Mulkey’s crassness post-game be used to minimize it.

Cardoso lost her cool and was rightly punished for it.

There’s a discussion to be had about the referees letting it get to that point. But once it did, it was incumbent upon the coaches — you know, the supposed adults in the room — to defuse the situation. Staley did her part.

Mulkey most definitely did not.

Commentary: LSU coach Kim Mulkey manages to go even lower after brawl at SEC  championship

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to, well, anyone. Mulkey is the most colorful figure in all of college basketball right now, and it’s not only because she stalks the sidelines in outfits that would make the contestants in a beauty pageant look dowdy.

She wears so many feathers and sequins, it’s a wonder there’s any left for the Mardi Gras krewes.

She is brash and seems to delight in not having a filter.

But Mulkey also has a tendency to create needless firestorms with her comments. Or lack thereof.

When Reese missed four games earlier this season and Mulkey refused to explain why, it created a negative narrative the Most Outstanding Player from last year’s title game didn’t deserve. Mulkey’s flippant remarks about possibly having COVID and making people sick for Thanksgiving were tactless.

Her relative silence about Brittney Griner, who played for her at Baylor, when Griner was being wrongfully detained in Russia stood in noted contrast to the rest of women’s basketball.

Mulkey is secure in both her job and her profession, having won her fourth national title, and LSU’s first, last year. She’s made it clear she long ago stopped caring what others think of her. If she ever did.

But it’s one thing for Mulkey to play fast and loose with her own reputation. Being so casual about the health and safety of others is another matter altogether and, in this case, it crossed a line.

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