Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Mulkey adds to legacy with 4th title
LSU head coach Kim Mulkey celebrates with Flau'jae Johnson during the second half of the NCAA Women's Final Four championship basketball game against Iowa Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Dallas. LSU won 102-85 to win the championship. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
It seemed a foregone conclusion that the NCAA women’s basketball champions would be out of the SEC.
For a few hours it appeared it might be an All-SEC Final but the nation was saved another round of “it just means more” when undefeated and No. 1 seed, the defending national champion South Carolina, found out why Caitlin Clark had been named the national player of the year.
Clark averaged almost 28 points a game for Iowa, but she lit South Carolina up for 41 points in her team’s 77-73 win to advance to Sunday’s final with LSU.
Clark got 30 on the Tigers but LSU was too good on both ends the court, forcing 16 turnovers and scoring a record 102 on the other end, and suddenly there was LSU Coach Kim Mulkey crying and hugging players, usually her feet dangling above the floor.
It took a while to realize the pantsuit she was wearing was tiger stripes and not something she took from a closet when the light was burned out.
It wasn’t about about the second-year head coach at LSU or her wardrobe.
It was a team victory.
Although it was impossible to downplay her fourth national championship.
Mulkey, though has a basketball history that goes back to the late 1970s when in junior high at Tickfaw, La., she played against boys.
In high school, the 5-4 guard led Hammond High to four straight state championships, graduated as the valedictorian and headed for then-heralded Louisiana Tech where she formed a lifetime kinship with then-assistant coach Leon Barmore.
She rewarded his confidence in her by leading her team to two national championships, the AIAW and the inaugural NCAA women’s championship in 1982 and was first winner of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award.
By then, she was known for her spitfire quickness and long blond pony tail that seemed to follow her flowing at full mast.
With her as the starting point guard, Tech went 130-6 in her four years and every season ended in the Final Four.
Her fame was spreading mostly because of her intensity in international play where she helped lead the USA to gold in the 1983 Pan Am games and gold in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
There was no professional league for females then and she took a job as an assistant coach for Barmore where she stayed for 15 years and when she went to Baylor she left behind a record of 403-62 and eight trips to the Final Four, winning it all in 1988.
Baylor had finished last in the Big 12 the year before she arrived with an overall record of 7-20 and the Bears had never received a NCAA Tournament bid.
That changed in her first season as the fiery, aggressive coach sparked her team to a 21-9 record and the NCAA Tournament.
In her 21 seasons at Baylor her record was 632-104 and she made the NCAA Tournament every year it was held but once.
She won her first national championship in her fifth season and her second one in 2012 when the Bears set a record for wins with a 40-0 season.
Her third championship came in 2019 and at the end of the 2020 season, when she made several unpopular comments about covid testing, she announced she was going home to Louisiana to coach the Tigers.
The first female in history to win a national championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach has won 88 percent of her games at LSU and Sunday was her 60th win against just eight losses.
LSU won the national championship as a team Sunday, but it had a lot of history storming the sidelines.
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