DALLAS — Kim Mulkey hopped onto the news conference podium here Thursday at American Airlines Center, a black souvenir Women’s Final Four cowboy hat perched atop her platinum blonde hair.
The latest fashion “statement” for the LSU coach whose NCAA tournament ensemble has been marked by pink feathers, mirrored jackets and a St. Patrick’s Day sweater that read, “Kiss me I’m a queen.”
And wins. When Mulkey is concerned, you can never forget the wins.
Four straight NCAA tournament victories led LSU and its coach back to their sport’s biggest stage. They’ll take that stage at 6 p.m. Friday against Virginia Tech in the evening’s first national semifinal.
The anticipation for what Mulkey will wear Friday is one of the subplots bubbling up in advance of this year’s Final Four. No one is wondering what her counterpart, Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks, a man with a with a predilection for quarter-zip pullovers and sweaters, will wear. With Mulkey, fashion is one of the factors that makes news.
But people who think Mulkey is just some sort of basketball sideshow, a Dick Vitale in spiked heels, sell her short at their peril.
Though it may look like Mulkey is embracing eccentricity as a central tenet of a Hall of Fame career in its golden years, little could be further from the truth.
She still wins. A lot. She still wants to win. Every time. She still wants to beat your a** just as much as ever. And she still has the skills to assemble a team of playing and coaching talent to reach the Final Four with a 32-2 record that includes a loss to unbeaten South Carolina.
ESPN’s Holly Rowe, one of the network’s two sideline reporters for the Final Four, understands Mulkey’s game.
“Her outfits are the front porch,” Rowe said. “They get you interested in watching the game, but once you’re watching you want to stay awhile. She told me, ‘If it brings one person to see a game, that’s the reason.’