Compete is a word very familiar to head women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey. In high school, she led her Hammond High School basketball team to four consecutive state championships. She then went on to play point guard at Louisiana Tech University and won two National Championships, the AIAW title in 1981 and the inaugural NCAA title in 1982. When it came to sports, Mulkey knew how to compete.
But her competitive nature began off the basketball courts and ball fields. She discovered her intense desire to win and be the best in the classroom.
“Every test you take you want to make an A,” Mulkey said. “I knew that I wasn’t the smartest kid in the school or even in the classroom but I knew I could out study them.”
Mulkey’s will to compete in the classroom earned her a perfect 4.0 GPA and the honor to represent her class as valedictorian at Hammond High School.
Mulkey didn’t grow up in a home where she was pushed to succeed in academics. Her parents were high school graduates and worked hard to support their family. The will and determination to do well in school came completely from her desire to win and beat out her classmates.
“I graduated valedictorian and certainly was not the smartest kid in the school,” Mulkey said. “I probably had the worst ACT score out of anybody in the top ten but my competitiveness allowed me to surpass them when it came to taking tests.”
After high school, Mulkey continued these study habits in college at Louisiana Tech University while playing for the Lady Techsters.
As a player, Mulkey was an All-American point guard that helped her team earn two National Championships, one AIAW Championship in 1981 and one NCAA Championship in 1982. Two years later, Mulkey competed on the USA Women’s basketball team in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and helped the Americans win a gold medal.
As a student, she graduated Suma Cum Laude with a business degree and was on her way to conquering the corporate world after college.
Being a basketball coach wasn’t even a passing thought for Mulkey as she finished school. She always had plans to graduate and get into the business world right away. However, after participating in the Olympics she was given the opportunity to further her education at Louisiana Tech with a Masters in business degree.
“Back then the NCAA gave five female and five male basketball players a check to go work on their post graduate studies and I was one of those who was fortunate enough to get it,” said Mulkey.
Mulkey has used her competitiveness not only to win games and championships but also to make sure all her players get a college education.
“As a coach, she places a great importance on academics and makes it her personal goal to make sure all of her players graduate,” sophomore Mackenzie Robertson said. “She really wants us to become better people in life, not just basketball.”
Her future plans in the business world took a major turn one day when she was sitting in class. A group of police officers entered the classroom and asked the professor to have Kim Mulkey meet them outside after class was over.
“I was nervous because you start thinking there was a death in the family or there’s been a horrible accident, but what it was, the president of the university sent them.” Mulkey said. “The head women’s coach at the time was Sonja Hogg had retired and the president wanted me to be on the women’s basketball staff under the new head coach, Leon Barmore. I went up to his office and he convinced me to give it a shot.”
The decision to take this coaching position was one that would alter her life forever as she would go on to make history as a coach in women’s basketball throughout her career.
During her tenure as an assistant coach, Mulkey had head coaching offers from schools like Missouri, South Carolina and Texas A&M, but she wanted to stay loyal to Louisiana Tech.
After achieving the highest winning percentage in the history of women’s basketball, Barmore retired and left the program to Mulkey.
During contract negotiations, Mulkey had her heart set on a five-year deal. Louisiana Tech, however, had a shorter agreement in mind. Despite Mulkey’s begging and pleading, Tech would not budge, and Mulkey accepted Baylor’s five-year offer and moved to Waco.
Since then, Mulkey has coached her teams to five Big 12 Championships, including three in a row from 2009-2013, and two National Championships. She has been named the Big 12 Coach of the Year four times and has earned USBWA National Coach of the Year honors in both 2011 and 2012.
Mulkey is already a member of the National High School Hall of Fame, the Louisiana High School Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame.
Another national championship this year would add to the numerous successes and achievements that have helped cement her as one of the game’s all-time greats.