By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Baylor women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey is one of four women who are finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
Mulkey, who boasts 532 career wins as head coach of the Lady Bears, took a moment to reflect on her career after Baylor’s 88-51 win over Kansas on Saturday.
Mulkey won the NCAA Tournament title in 1982 as a player for Louisiana Tech, and again in 1988 as assistant coach. Mulkey said coming to Baylor was a curveball at her after Louisiana Tech did not renew her contract.
“I came to Baylor to get a paycheck and to try to get them out of the cellar of the Big 12,” Mulkey said. “Remember the story about how I got here and Louisiana Tech not giving me a 5-year deal? Life throws you curveballs and you either hit those curveballs or you strikeout, and I’m not one that’s used to striking out.”
The Lady Bears were 7-20 in 1999-2000, the season before Mulkey arrived, and had never made the NCAA Tournament. Mulkey has led them to the NCAA Tournament every year she since became head coach.
Mulkey said the expectations were at an all-time low when she showed up, but after a quick turnaround that included a 2005 National Championship, the fans wanted more.
“I came here with a vision to build a program,” Mulkey said. “Little did I know that we would be able to build it as fast as we did and win a National Championship in five years. So then we had to keep feeding that old monster.”
Mulkey and the Lady Bears have continued to feed the monster, winning the 2012 National Championship and winning the Big 12 Conference eight times in a row.
Mulkey said she is not alone in making Baylor a powerhouse women’s basketball program.
“I couldn’t do it by myself,” Mulkey said. “I’ve been blessed with unbelievable coaches that have remained committed. People see that this program is not going to go away. If I’m ever fortunate enough to make it in there, I hope Baylor helps me pay for every kid I’ve ever coached to go there because I’m only as good as they are. At the end of the day, they make a coach. I’m humbled, I’m honored, all the things I can say.”
In addition to her potential Hall of Fame selection, on Wednesday Mulkey was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year.
Mulkey has won the Naismith Coach of the Year award once before (2012) and she also won AP College Coach of the Year (2012) and USBWA Coach of the Year twice (2011, 2012).
As for the Hall of Fame, Mulkey said she isn’t sure if she’s deserving, but if she is, it’s because Baylor gave her the opportunity to coach.
“Am I worthy? I don’t know,” Mulkey said. “It’s a Baylor deal. It belongs to Baylor if I ever make it in the Hall of Fame. Baylor took a chance on me.”
Her players disagree, however, as Senior guard Kristy Wallace noted, “she’s worthy.”