When the hoopla surrounding the still rather surreal fact that Kim Mulkey is LSU’s new women’s basketball coach began to subside, there was a familiar realization waiting in its place:
Scott Woodward had done it again.
LSU’s athletic director built his reputation on fishing in deep waters to pull in prize catches. He did it as AD at Washington when he brought in Boise State football coach Chris Petersen. He did it at Texas A&M when he lured Jimbo Fisher to College Station to coach football and Buzz Williams to coach men’s basketball.
“I’m trying to get the best people,” Woodward said. “I think that way. I’m too stupid to know better.
Kim Mulkey stepped behind a podium and looked at the crowd gathered before her. About 1,000 people had come to the Pete Maravich Assembly Cent…
“If I failed, what was lost? You’ve just got to get in there and do it.”
There was something of a parallel between Mulkey and Williams, a Texas native who like Mulkey wanted to return to coach in his home state. But like the woman herself, this was a unique situation.
Successful coaches rarely want to move from where they are. Hall of Fame coaches, even less so. What made this move happen was a coach who realized she felt the tug of it being time to move on from Baylor, where she won three national titles in 21 seasons, and a school that was willing to make a major financial commitment.
“It speaks for itself,” Woodward said of the Mulkey hire. “When you get a once-in-a-lifetime chance like this, it becomes a no-brainer.”
First though, there had to be a job opening for Mulkey to accept. Woodward was firm Tuesday that Nikki Fargas had been set to return as LSU’s women’s basketball coach for the 2021-22 season, despite going 9-13 this year and having taken the Tigers to just two of the past five NCAA tournaments that were held. But Fargas resigned last week and made it official Saturday, reportedly planning to take a job as president of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces (that hasn’t happened yet).
“We always evaluate,” Woodward said. “But at the time that was exactly the case. She was going to be our coach next year.”
When word came that Fargas was planning to leave, Woodward began formulating a list of potential candidates that included a sitting women’s head coach — but not Mulkey. Former LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux was instrumental in pulling the two sides together, helping draw Mulkey and LSU toward what proved to be their mutual interest. Stephanie Rempe, Woodward’s executive deputy athletic director and chief operating officer, broadened the talks into a real dialogue between Mulkey and LSU.
“An introductory phone call was made early last week,” Mulkey said Monday at her introductory spectacle/news conference at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. “An offer was made the latter part of the week and I mulled it over until (Sunday) afternoon.
“I had many opportunities to leave (Baylor). This is the only place that could get me to go.”
Like Mulkey, Woodward confirmed that he and she basically affirmed their commitment to her coming to LSU in a 10-minute phone call, with the major details to be hammered out as the days went on.
“That’s the full-on truth,” Woodward said. “She did say we’re both kindred spirits in how we approach things. We talked about how family is important to us and how we like to do things in Louisiana. I told her, ‘I feel like I know you. I watched you kill it at Hammond High School and in the Morning Advocate as a (Louisiana Tech Lady) Techster and everything you did in your career. I feel like part of your family.’
“It’s interesting the comfort I had feeling like we knew each other because of our similar experiences.”
Kim Mulkey's introductory press conference in her new role as LSU's women's basketball coach had a bit of everything, and of course that inclu…
Woodward is sure to experience some second-guessing about the salary he is paying Mulkey.
Though details have not been released yet, reports and sources indicate Mulkey will be getting an eight-year deal worth about $2.5 million per year to start out, roughly equivalent to what men’s coach Will Wade is earning. Mulkey reportedly made $2.27 million per year at Baylor.
Once he wrapped his head around the figures, the financial commitment didn’t dissuade Woodward.
“Obviously when you’re blessed to work at a place like LSU you think big all the time,” Woodward said. “That’s how I approached it. As soon as it became a possibility, that was the first thing that went through my mind. How special it could be.”
Given all of Mulkey’s achievements, and her plain declaration that she is coming to LSU to pursue another national title, this may be Woodward’s biggest get yet.
“For me at this time in my life, at this place, it’s as special (a hire) as it gets,” Woodward said. “Wow.”