Postgame: Kim Mulkey's thoughts after LSU's Elite Eight loss

On3 imageby:Matthew Brune04/01/24


Head coach Kim Mulkey took the podium after LSU’s loss to Iowa on Monday night to discuss her players, the game, and the season as a whole. Here’s everything she said.

Q. Coach, what went into the strategy in terms of how you wanted to defend Caitlin Clark, and then also wondering, it seemed like you had a long embrace and some kind words for her afterwards in the handshake line. Just wondering what you said.

KIM MULKEY: Well, there’s not a lot of strategy. You’ve got to guard her. Nobody else seems to be able to guard her. We didn’t even guard her last year when we beat them. She’s just a generational player, and she just makes everybody around her better. That’s what the great ones do. I think they had a kid that scored 21 and 18. She had 12 assists. Caitlin Clark is not going to beat you by herself. It’s what she does to make those other teammates better that helps her score points and them score points to beat you.

What did I say to her? I said, I sure am glad you’re leaving. I said, Girl, you something else. Never seen anything like it.

Q. Were you surprised at all at the pace of that first quarter?

KIM MULKEY: Yes. In talking to my team, we played to their pace. We ended the first quarter with the lead, but I think their pace dictated that third quarter. I think it really hit us in the third quarter, that pace.

Q. How hobbled or how limited was Angel, and can you talk about the performance that she had despite that injury?

KIM MULKEY: I didn’t ask anybody how bad the sprain is, and honestly I’m assuming it’s the same ankle that she sprained in the SEC tournament.

But you’re in the heat of the moment. She’s playing. Trainer never came to see me to give me any details. I don’t know that Angel or I, either one, would ever make an excuse that her being hobbled was why we lost the game.

Q. Coach, your team wasn’t on the floor during the National Anthem, first part. Was that a conscious decision on your part? Second, can you say what the team was doing during that time?

KIM MULKEY: Honestly, I don’t even know when the anthem was played. We kind of have a routine when they’re on the floor and they come off at the 12-minute mark. I don’t know, we come in and we do our pregame stuff. I’m sorry, listen, that’s nothing intentionally done.

Q. Your players had some very passionate and animated comments just now about Angel and treatment and criticism and whatnot. Just your thoughts of what you just listened to?

KIM MULKEY: I’m going to assume something here now. I’m going to assume they’re talking about social media attacks, and I don’t see all that. I don’t do social media.

I thought it was heartwarming. I thought it was touching they are young people that are on social media, and that is their teammate. It sounded like to me they’ve been wanting to get that off their chest, so I just listened like you guys did.

Q. When you look back at the season, what do you think you’re going to remember and feel the most?

KIM MULKEY: Proud. I’m going to feel very proud. I’m going to think of the little things that we overcame, that put us in an Elite 8. You’re one game away from going back to the Final Four. I’m going to eventually think of how did we get here. How did we get here? What did we do as a team and as a staff to get to this moment?

So basically I guess what I’m telling you is you learn. You learn. I learn every day as a coach. I look at the stat sheet, and I just put a lot of little notes down there, and I’ll file it away and think about it when the emotion of the loss goes away.

We shot the ball almost 20 times more than they did. So that’s the pace I’m talking about. Then you look at that second and especially the third quarter where we just missed shots. You’ll dissect things like that. Yeah, I could probably tell you a bunch of things you’ll dissect X’s and O’s-wise. Reverse the ball, just a little bit tougher in the moment, depth. I mean, you can just sit and talk all day about the game.

Only one team finishes the season happy, and boy, we got to do that last year. Somebody will get to do it this year. But everybody else is going to come up here and be sad. You know, there’s nothing wrong with being sad. If you’re not sad, that means you didn’t invest much. So those tears are tears of investment.

Q. Your players have talked about how since a calendar year ago they have become world famous for good, for bad. How has that strengthened your team, changed these young women, and what does it mean for the group that will be coming back and going forward?

KIM MULKEY: I’ve been doing this almost 40 years. That doesn’t count as a player. We’ve changed, people. We’ve changed. And we’ve changed in so many good ways. These young people will have a memory of being a part of something that was this great tonight, many of them being a part of winning a championship last year.

I can’t describe to you how good it is right now in women’s basketball. That’s why I wished this game could have been at the Final Four. Wow. Sure was good for an Elite 8 game.

We’re proud to be a part of that. Good, bad, indifferent, our world has changed a lot when you talk about what they were just talking about, social media. I am honestly so oblivious to what those kids see, hear and even participate in when it comes to social media. I know things when I need to know them from coaches or administrators or I need to address things, but I don’t invest in any of that. I just don’t.

So if you want me to know something, you’d better send it to me; otherwise, I don’t see it unless a family member or a team member or somebody brings it to my attention.

Q. Hailey Van Lith, it’s clearly her last game, and I’m pretty sure having the night she had, if you could just speak to the contribution she brought to this team and everything she’s done.

KIM MULKEY: Well, I hope it’s not her last game. But if it is, I’m proud to have been her coach for a year. She’s got another year if she wants to come back. So does Angel. I know they have to make decisions.

But the thing that we talk about a lot, on the men’s side, we talk about one-and-dones and how terrible that is. You go through a period, you can’t have these players for long periods of time, they’re selfish, they’re going to take care of themselves. Look, everybody is different and everybody has to do what they’re going to do.

Hailey Van Lith came to LSU after being an abundant shooter. Shot it a lot at Louisville. Had great success. Was on good teams. But she graduated in three years with a finance degree. She wanted to experience all the things I guess she saw from afar with our championship last year.

For her to take that leap of faith and leave her comfort zone at Louisville, you don’t see many players do that when she was that big a piece to their puzzle. She has embraced learning a new position, taking less shots. Our last game against UCLA, I thought her stats were very good, but I’m an old point guard, and I see all that.

Forever indebted to Haley and her unselfish play to come to LSU to play with a lot of great players and learn a new position.

Q. Just the growth that we’ve seen from Flau’jae and for Angel to sit there and say the leadership qualities that she showed this year, what does that do for your team coming back next year?

KIM MULKEY: Well, all three of these young ladies were voted captains, and for Flau’jae to be selected as one of the captains as a sophomore pretty much sums it up. She is just a person of joy. She just plays the game with a lot of heart, and she’s learning to become a leader at a young age. I’m glad I get to coach her.

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