Kim Mulkey’s modus operandi is to be loud and wrong, so it was pretty telling when on Monday she declined to show the minimum level of support for Brittney Griner. The old axiom, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” applies to college basketball’s Lord Palpatine, whose basic instinct is to act with malice. The bar was on the floor when Mulkey was asked by Lafayette Daily Advertiser reporter Cory Diaz if she had any thoughts on Griner’s detainment and sentencing in Russia, an issue Mulkey has not yet commented on despite coaching Griner in college.
Mulkey responded dismissively, “And you won’t.”
Mulkey’s silence speaks volumes. After months to mull her thoughts over, she still tripped over it and cracked her skull. For four years, Griner and Mulkey had a mutually beneficial coach-player relationship. Between 2009 and 2013, Griner was critical in Baylor winning 135 of 150 games, reaching two Final Fours, and going 40-0 en route to the 2011 national title. She showed as much empathy for Griner as she did during the height of the COVID-19 epidemic when she railed against masks.
Given her history, Mulkey probably aligns with the countless Americans around the country who have supported or mocked Griner’s maximum punishment on the grounds of “law and order” while shrugging off how similar cases within Russia have been handled with leniency. Former president and current social media lunatic Donald Trump went out of his way to spew vitriol about a potential prisoner trade that would result in Griner’s release. Yet, while he was president, he supported lessening sentences for drug offenses in response to the opioid crisis that ravaged rural white communities.
When Griner disclosed her struggles with hiding her sexuality at Baylor to ESPNW’s Kate Fagan, Mulkey didn’t offer support for Griner there either. Instead, Mulkey channeled her energy into trying to get Fagan fired. Ironically, during the most recent WNBA offseason, while Griner was playing in Ekaterinburg, Russia, she even stuck up for Mulkey, telling ESPNW’s Mechelle Voepel: “It’s not a personal attack on her; she didn’t write the rules at Baylor. She was only doing what she thought was best.
“For me, it wasn’t anti-her, it was anti-the-system. But I still love Baylor,” Griner continued. “I learned from it, too. I think she learned something from it and hopefully takes whatever it was and applies it with the new set of players that she’s coaching.”
Mulkey’s reasons for shunning Griner are a mystery and her lips are sealed. What we do know is that Mulkey’s first impulses are often ones she has to walk back from. If you find yourself nodding in agreement with Mulkey, you’re the type of person who failed the Homelander test. If you find yourself consistently agreeing with the antagonist, you should reevaluate your opinion of right and wrong. The Mulkey test is college basketball’s alternative.
Mulkey’s moral compass reflexively guided her to defend an administration at Baylor that covered up sexual assaults. Her initial response to Baylor’s scandal was to tell a home crowd to punch anyone in the mouth who discouraged their daughter from attending Baylor.
She later added, “This is a great institution, and I would send my daughter here, and I would pay for anyone else’s daughter to come here. I work here every day. I’m in the know. And I’m tired of hearing it. This is a great institution. The problems that we have at Baylor are no different than the problems at any other school in America. Period. Move on. Find another story to write.”
Since Mulkey expressed her reluctance to comment on Griner’s ordeal, former players Queen Egbo and Chloe Jackson have denounced Mulkey’s character. Given the reverence most erstwhile student-athletes have typically shown for their collegiate coaches, it’s telling that Mulkey’s former players would levy intense criticisms of her. Compare that to the rapport Dawn Staley has with former players.
Mulkey only developed a filter when presented with the chance to say make a milquetoast, supportive statement for a player she recruited out of high school and who evolved into the pillar of her first two national titles. Griner was nothing more than a commodity to her. She had more positive things to say about Donald Trump, one of the most criminally and morally corrupt public figures alive. Mulkey discarded Griner as a human once he had no use for her anymore. Her selfishness is her defining characteristic and her instincts are grotesque. Hopefully, future recruits are listening.