No one has ever accused women’s college basketball coach Kim Mulkey of being the warm and fuzzy type. That’s never been more apparent than in her response to former player Brittney Griner’s wrongful detainment in Russia.
According to MSN, the LSU coach has found herself in a storm of backlash after she failed to comment on the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s imprisonment and nine-year sentence for drug smuggling and possession. During a press conference on Monday, when a reporter asked for Mulkey’s thoughts on “Brittney Griner’s situation,” and specifically stated “I don’t think I’ve seen anything from you on that,” Mulkey quickly—and coldly—responded, “and you won’t.”
Griner played for Mulkey for four years at Baylor, leading the team to two final four appearances and one national championship. Considering how essential the Phoenix Mercury center was to the coach’s success, her lack of support did not go over well with the rest of the basketball world, especially her former players.
Queen Egbo, who Mulkey coached for three years at Baylor and who had a standout rookie season this year for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, tweeted her displeasure with her former coach’s comments, writing, “A player that built Baylor, 2 [Final Fours], & a 40-0 record. Yet her former coach refuses to say anything or simply just show any kind of support. Keep that in mind when you’re choosing schools.”
Per USA Today, current Baylor coach Nicki Collen was asked about Griner’s detainment and she responded with much more grace. While noting how important Brittney has been to Baylor’s program, and what she means to women’s basketball as a whole, Collen showed compassion for the eight-time All-Star’s family.
“Those that have been around me know I get pretty emotional,” Collen said. “I think BG, first of all, is human first. I think this is a human rights issue. No one’s saying she didn’t make a mistake. None of us are perfect. But I guess I would wanna know if I did something and was stuck in a foreign country, what it was, what it wasn’t. I think we all know that 10 years is a long time. I see her as a mother, as a sister, as a spouse, as a daughter, as an unbelievable ambassador for the game of basketball.”
Mulkey’s reputation for callousness precedes her, so no one was really surprised by her attitude. But it wouldn’t kill her to show the smallest amount of support for someone so crucial to her career. Sportswriter Mitchell Northam tweeted, “I will never understand why kids want to play for her.”
Despite their success together, Mulkey and Griner have a troubled history. Back in 2013, the WNBA champion told ESPN that her college coaches didn’t want players to be open about their sexuality because it could hurt recruiting.
“It was a recruiting thing,” Griner said. “The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor. I told Coach when she was recruiting me. I was like, ‘I’m gay. I hope that’s not a problem,’ and she told me that it wasn’t. I mean, my teammates knew, obviously, they all knew. Everybody knew about it.”
At the time, Mulkey responded to her former player’s comments about an “unwritten law” in a statement from the university.
“Brittney Griner represented Baylor University proudly on and off the basketball court, and she leaves behind an incredible legacy,” Mulkey said in a statement. “I cannot comment on personal matters surrounding any of our student-athletes, but I can tell you Brittney will always be a celebrated member of the Baylor family.”
No matter how she feels about Brittney Griner now, surely there was a better, more compassionate way for Kim Mulkey to discuss the basketball star’s Russian detainment. At the very least she could’ve offered some “thoughts and prayers” or claimed she didn’t want to comment while Brittney’s appeal is still pending or negotiations are happening. Literally, anything would have been better than what she did.
Seriously, who wants their kids to play for this person?