Intense Mulkey points Baylor to round of 16 again

Associated Press
Baylor center Brittney Griner, right, responds to a question as a smiling head coach, Kim Mulkey, left, looks on during a news conference in the second round of the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Monday, March 21, 2011, in Waco, Texas. Baylor will play West Virginia on Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Kim Mulkey will stomp her feet or scowl if a referee makes a questionable call. If one of her Baylor players makes a mistake, she will often get an animated expression from the coach.

Pacing and pointing, Mulkey shouts out instructions from the sideline and sometimes frantically waves her arms to direct her team — or get a ref's attention. And it doesn't matter if the Lady Bears are trailing or have a big lead, which is more often the case.

"She's so fiery," senior guard Melissa Jones said. "She does everything in her power to get us a win without actually being on the court doing it."

Mulkey is demanding and her expressions match her intensity. She has been that way winning national titles as a head coach, assistant coach and pigtailed point guard — the only person ever to accomplish that trifecta.

"Kim Mulkey's competitive nature and her competitive spirit and her drive to win have made her an outstanding basketball coach," said Leon Barmore, who recruited Mulkey to play at Louisiana Tech, hired her as a coach there and is now one of her assistants.

"Some people say, well I want to win, and some people say I'm driven," he said. "Some people may show it in different ways, but Kim shows it and wears it on her sleeve and her team feeds off of her."

Baylor (33-2), the top-seeded team in the Dallas Regional, plays Wisconsin-Green Bay (34-1) on Sunday. The Lady Bears are in the NCAA round of 16 for the third straight season, and sixth time in eight years.

When Mulkey arrived in 2000, Baylor was coming off a 7-20 season, was the last-place team in the Big 12 and had never been to the NCAA tournament. The Bears have been 10 times since, winning the 2005 national title and going to the Final Four last season.

At times, Mulkey seems so distraught that it looks like she might burst into tears. That can change just as quickly to her slapping her hands together and encouraging her players.

Mulkey gets so involved in games that sometimes she's not even aware of her expressions or what she does. She is sure to find out from her mother or her children, including daughter Makenzie Robertson, a freshman guard at Baylor.

"You're just in that moment with those kids. It's like you're on that floor with them, and you're playing the game. That's just a passion you have and an intensity you have," Mulkey said. "The sideline is my work, it's my zone, where I've got to focus. And I'm not even aware of my surroundings except for those people on that bench with me."

The former point guard who led Louisiana Tech to a 130-6 record and two national titles is as close as she can get to the action without having the ball in her hands.

What might surprise people who only see the ranting coach is what Mulkey is like off the court.

"If you only saw the basketball side, you would think she's this intense, probably mean lady that's just always yelling," Robertson said. "But for the people close to her, they just see her as Kim. She's a comedian and she loves to laugh and joke around. She's just real laid-back."

Mulkey, a self-proclaimed cutup, is often the target of pranks by her players.

They have filled the kitchen area in her office with balloons and wrapped her house in toilet paper. Her clothes have been hidden in a freezer when she got in the sauna.

"They end up telling on themselves. ... They just start giggling and you can figure out real quick who's the guilty party," Mulkey said. "There's a time to be serious, there's a time to play. And I want them to have a relationship with me that they're comfortable off the floor and yet they have a respectful fear."

Brittney Griner, Baylor's 6-foot-8 sophomore standout, has flipped Mulkey's desk, putting everything on the opposite side of where the coach had it.

"Everything people see is so one-sided. They just see that intimidating side of coach," Jones said. "When we're just hanging out or when we're on trips and stuff she's the one person you want to be around because she is funny."

Mulkey never planned on being a coach. After playing her last game, she was a graduate student at Louisiana Tech with plans to work in the business world and climb the corporate ladder.

But Barmore, who first saw her as a 10th-grader, pulled her out of a graduate class and asked about coaching. She spent 15 seasons as a Tech assistant before going to Baylor, where she has a 297-78 record.

Bob Knight and Dean Smith are the only other people to win national championships as a player and coach. A 2000 inductee into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, she is the only person to coach and play for a No. 1-ranked women's team.

"After coaching Kim for four years, I certainly knew a lot about her. I knew that she was very intelligent, I knew that she was a very hard worker," Barmore said. "There's no question that if she wanted to dedicate herself to being a coach, she was going to be a good one."

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