Nikki Fargas, LSU’s women’s basketball coach for the past decade, is leaving the program, opening the door for the school to make a blockbuster hire by bringing in Baylor coach and Louisiana basketball legend Kim Mulkey, multiple sources have told The Advocate.
Fargas has reportedly been in negotiations to become president of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, though there has been no official word from the franchise or from LSU. However, multiple sources confirmed to The Advocate that Fargas submitted her resignation earlier this week and has cleaned out her office.
Attempts to reach Fargas have been unsuccessful. LSU athletic director Scott Woodward declined comment.
Meanwhile, there is substantial mutual interest between LSU and Mulkey, who grew up in Tickfaw and won state championships as a player at Hammond High School, national championships as a player and assistant coach at Louisiana Tech and three national titles as head coach at Baylor.
If the two sides can agree on a deal, it would be the most significant hire in Woodward’s two-year tenure. The LSU alumnus built his reputation for big hires as AD at Washington, with football coach Chris Petersen, and at Texas A&M, with football coach Jimbo Fisher and men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams.
A timetable for the discussions is unclear, as are potential terms of a deal.
Mulkey reportedly earns $2.27 million per year at Baylor, which is a private institution. Fargas made $700,000 per year in her final contract with LSU.
Mulkey is the only person to win women’s basketball national titles as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and is one of three to win NCAA titles as a player and coach along with Bob Knight and Dean Smith.
Mulkey, who led Baylor to NCAA titles in 2005, 2012 and 2019, will be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15.
Fargas went 177-129 at LSU in 10 seasons, with six NCAA tournament appearances and two trips to the Sweet 16, and an appearance in the Southeastern Conference tournament final in 2012. Her .578 winning percentage is the second lowest of LSU’s seven women’s basketball coaches, ahead of only Barbara Swanner, who went 57-50 (.533) from 1978-82.
Fargas’ first four LSU teams earned NCAA tournament bids and never finished worse than sixth in the SEC standings. But only two of her last six teams made it to NCAA play, though her 2019-20 team that went 20-10 was a virtual lock to receive a bid before last year’s tournament was canceled by the pandemic.
LSU went 9-13 and 6-8 in SEC play this season, finishing in eighth place, just her second losing season. Fargas’ last game as LSU’s coach was a 77-58 loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament. LSU’s season was highlighted by a 65-61 upset of Texas A&M on Jan. 14. It was the only regular-season loss for the Aggies, who won the SEC title.
Five of LSU’s players entered the transfer portal in late March, including seniors Awa Trasi and Karli Seay and junior Tiara Young. Earlier this month, LSU accepted graduate transfers Autumn Newby, a forward from Vanderbilt, and Ariyah Copeland, a forward from Alabama.
Fargas came to LSU after three successful seasons as head coach at UCLA. Her Bruins teams went 72-26 (.735), including a 25-9 record in 2009-10 and 28-5 mark in 2010-11, reaching the NCAA second round both times.
A native of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Fargas played guard for the powerhouse Tennessee Lady Volunteers from 1990-94, gaining a reputation as a tough defender and solid 3-point shooter. Tennessee went 118-13 during her playing career and won the 1991 NCAA championship at UNO’s Lakefront Arena her freshman year.
After some TV work Fargas, 48, returned to the Lady Volunteers’ program in 1998 as a graduate assistant. She then served as an assistant coach from 1999-2002 at Virginia under Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Debbie Ryan, before returning to Tennessee in 2002 as an assistant under legendary coach Pat Summitt. She remained there until taking the UCLA job.
Fargas married former Southern California and Raiders running back Justin Fargas in 2014. They have one daughter, Justice, who was born just after the 2012 SEC tournament.
Mulkey, 58, is the mother of former LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson, who played for the Tigers from 2014-17. Mulkey was frequently in the stands during those years wearing purple and gold.
Mulkey has gone 632-104 at Baylor, an .859 winning percentage. The past 10 years Mulkey’s teams have been even better than that, going 368-28 (.929) including a 28-3 record this season with a trip to the NCAA women’s tournament’s Elite Eight. She has the third-best winning percentage in women’s basketball history behind only Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (.885) and former Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore (.869), Mulkey’s former coach and mentor.
In February 2020, she became the fastest coach in NCAA Division I history to 600 wins with a 77-62 victory at Texas Tech in her 700th game. Her teams have been to four Women’s Final Fours, won 12 Big 12 regular season titles (including the last 11 straight) and won 11 Big 12 tournament titles.
Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.