NCAA BK

Mulkey reflects on painful loss

Image: Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey (© Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey says she has several regrets about the loss to Louisville.
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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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Tuesday morning, during a 40-minute podcast conversation on Real Talk, Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey summarized her feelings on Sunday’s 82-81 upset loss to Louisville, the officiating she found objectionable, Brittney Griner’s career and possible changes to the women’s NCAA tournament.

Mulkey’s top-seeded Bears rallied from a 19-point, second-half deficit, took a one-point lead with nine seconds to play and lost when Louisville’s Monique Reid sank two free throws with 2.6 seconds to play.

It was arguably the greatest upset in the history of the women’s tournament. The defending national champions, the overwhelming favorite to repeat, lost in the Sweet 16 to a five seed, the third-best team in the Big East.

What follows are a few of her best comments. You can listen to the entire podcast here.

Mulkey blasted the officiating crew in her postgame comments. She did not back down on Tuesday.

“I don’t think I said things that I didn’t feel,” Mulkey told me. “I felt they were true and they just needed to be addressed. I want to first … compliment Louisville. I’ve played a lot of basketball in my day. I’ve coached a lot of basketball. Those girls shot extremely well, contested shots. It became at one point when they took a 19-point lead where you’re at peace with the outcome at that point because, my gosh, they’re just shooting it so well. And then we pecked away and got back in the game, and then I thought, ‘Well, my gosh, we’re not going to go away. We’re going to make a run at this thing.’ So compliment what they did. And I thought their defense of Griner from the very beginning was just — it’s just not basketball; it’s not enjoyable basketball. And when the game comes to that, it just needs to be addressed. It’s just something I felt that needed to be said. Had we won, would I have said it? Probably not. But at the same time, I just want to see the game played the way the game is meant to be played. It got out of hand, it got out of control. I don’t really regret saying that.”

Mulkey said she has not watched the game again and doesn’t plan to. She did say she’s thought about what she could’ve done differently.

 

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“I look back on that game, and I think, ‘If you could change anything in the game, as the coach, what things would you change?’ And I’ve come up in a 48-hour period since the game’s over with the two things I would change and do differently,” Mulkey admitted. “Number one, I would’ve gotten a technical right off the bat when I saw what was happening on the physical play with Griner. I should’ve gotten a technical right then and there. The second thing is that I maybe should’ve taken Griner out of the game at some point to see how they would’ve defended us with Brooklyn Pope and Destiny Williams in the game for just a few minutes. What would they have done if I would have taken Griner out of the game? But that’s your All-American, the greatest player that’s probably ever played the women’s game. … Those are two things that keep flashing in my mind if I had to question anything that I would’ve done as a coach.”

Griner was ineffective offensively, scoring just 14 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Louisville’s double- and triple-teams in the low post stopped her. Why didn’t Griner move to the high post and flash to the low post?

“She knows all that,” Mulkey said. “… Everything that Louisville did, Brittney has seen before. She’s seen it numerous times. For whatever reason — I don’t know if was the taunting, I don’t know if it was the physical play right off the bat, I don’t know if it was the hit in the face — something affected Brittney. We’ll never know. We’ll give Louisville credit, and we’ll move on.”

Mulkey later commented on the difficult catch-22 that Griner finds herself in every night on the court.

“When you get hit in the face, you retaliate don’t ya?” Mulkey asked me. “Well, Brittney can’t. Brittney can’t taunt in a game. And that’s the frustrating part of the other night. She can’t. She can’t do that. She can’t play streetball. I think I read where (Louisville coach) Jeff Walz said he was telling them to play streetball. You don’t want to play streetball with Brittney Griner. You don’t win. But Brittney Griner didn’t play streetball the other night. She can’t play streetball. She can never put herself in that position because of what happened her freshman year (an infamous punch) and because of who she is and how powerful she is.”

Did the entire game of women’s college basketball make the necessary and appropriate adjustments to keep pace with the raw skills and size Griner brought to the game? And will we ever see another Brittney Griner?

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“All of us, from the time she walked on this campus, I said, ‘We all have to adjust to Brittney Griner,’ ” Mulkey said. “I have to adjust because I’ve never coached a kid that can play above the rim. Opposing coaches are going to have to adjust because what you normally do against a team, you’re not going to be able to do against Brittney Griner. Officiating has to adjust. We all had to adjust. While we made progress, we still, as obvious as you saw the other night in the game, we didn’t finish it. She came and she left, and she’s gonna move on now. We didn’t get it completed is what I’m trying to say. Do I think there will ever be another Brittney Griner? I honestly don’t ever think there ever will be one in my lifetime that will do the things that she did. There will be dominant 6-8 players. But I’m not sure that I will ever see one that can just flat-out play above the rim, on the move, off the move, alter shots. I don’t know, because I don’t know that God makes many like that.”

Baylor is the best team in women’s basketball. The Bears proved that over the course of the past two seasons. I asked Mulkey if the single-elimination tournament is right for the women’s game.

“They will never change that,” she said. “That will never, ever change. And it certainly won’t ever change on the women’s side. … I don’t know if it’s sad to say this, but this is the truth — again, I’m sure I’ll be criticized for saying this — we don’t do things because we wait and see what the men do. It’s kind of like, ‘What are the men doing?’ You’re never going to see a double-elimination bracket.”

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How about moving the women’s tournament to February or April so incredible games like Sunday’s can get the full spotlight of college basketball?

“I’m not opposed to trying things like that,” Mulkey said. “We for the first time in the Big 12 separated our tournaments. We moved our tournament to Dallas while the men remained in Kansas City, and I thought it was very successful. ... Let’s separate it, let’s see, even if you separate it by two weeks, you move the women’s tournament sooner or let’s say even after the men’s tournament. What we can’t get into, though, is our seasons cannot be longer because our seasons are too long as is. I think you should shorten college basketball seasons. It is too long from the time we start practice until the first week in April.”

Mulkey also believes the women should do away with neutral site tournament games in the early rounds.

“The women’s game needs to go back to the top 16 seeds need to host,” she said. “This predetermined sites and you bid on it years in advance — I don’t like to watch a women’s basketball game and there’s nobody in the stands. I think it sends a horrible message. But if you’re a top-16 seed, I can assure you your hometown people are going to show up. ... Maybe we’ll go back to it now that they’ve tried it and seen that it does not work.”

Tagged: Louisville

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