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College Basketball

Like Bob Knight Before Her, Kim Mulkey Made It All About Herself

Head Coach Kim Mulkey of the LSU Tigers answers a question at the press conference during the first round of the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament held at Pete Maravich Assembly Center on March 22, 2024 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

As day dawned, the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament had gone through its opening games, of which 31 were won by the higher seed ... and Kim Mulkey. Yes, the Bayou Bengals also won, but so did Kim Mulkey. She is taking on the burgeoning women's basketball market by making the tournament all about her because, as much as she knows about the sport, the thing she knows best is herself.

In other words, do your worst, Caitlin Clark. Mulkey's shrill self-absorption is ready for you because she's been making women's college basketball about herself for years now, just like the late Bob Knight did.

By now you've seen the presser in which she threatened to sue the Washington Post and reporter Kent Babb, complaining that she'd been approached for an interview by Babb two years ago while complaining that he gave her two days to respond to one final request. In other words, she had just 720 days to respond to a request that she had only two days to respond to, and the unfairness of such an advance request convinced her to hijack attention from her own team by blaming Babb for hijacking attention from her own team. Give her this much: She does have the I-Blame-You-For-What-I-Did game as well as the basketball stuff.

As we don't yet know what are the specifics contained within Babb's story, guessing at it seems unfair—to everyone except Mulkey, who knows exactly what it's about because it's the most important thing in her life right now. She is, in that way, the preternatural college coach, making sure that she is the story no matter how much the actual games try to intrude on her stage. And because she is fully and aggressively prepared to maintain your focus on her, she will do so as often as she needs to because, even in the turbulent new landscape of college sports, it's still a game by coaches, for coaches, and about coaches because coaches are the only thing that stay the same no matter how many times college sports try to change.

Now it might be that Mulkey is among those few coaches left who can still run the attention table, but she is playing a particularly aggressive game with Babb and the Post. She only knows how to play one way, and her performance yesterday was one of her finest Hey-l'm-Over-Here shows ever. She's promoting the game the only way she knows how—by promoting herself, and promoting herself by threatening people she perceives as weaker than her. It's a very Knight-inspired play to make, and it will work as long as she can recruit great players and win 30 games a year. But as the game itself exponentially grows, she'll have to work harder to get less and less attention. Grating has a shelf life, too, and it grows shorter with every passing year.

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