Why ESPN’s Shannon Sharpe’s Criticism of LSU coach Kim Mulkey’s Beautiful Mind is Just Plain Stupid

Kim Mulkey
LSU coach Kim Mulkey Photo by LSU Athletics
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What in the world is Kim Mulkey thinking?

What’s going on in that uniquely magnificent, unconventional and, arguably, unmatched coaching mind of hers? That Beautiful Mind?

Hint: Mulkey has stated on more than one occassion, “I play to win.”

Sunday, she lost. Apparently.

I mean, the score says she lost.

But, keep in mind, Mulkey plays the long game.

Always has.

Always will.

It remains to be seen if Mulkey really lost on Sunday. We won’t know for real until the end of the season. Then and only then will we know if Mulkey and LSU really won on Sunday because the game’s not over. Not yet. Not in Mulkey’s mind. And not for real.

People like Shannon Sharpe should probably keep that in mind before they jump to conclusions and start shallowly criticizing Mulkey for anything (or everything) she says.

It’s getting boring. And it tends to make you look stupid, maybe because you are.

Not that Mulkey is beyond reproach because she’s not. No one is.

But Mulkey’s done nothing wrong at all in this particular case.

Sharpe’s critical bluntness of Mulkey is ironically dull, shallow, and completely illogical. More on that shortly.

On Sunday, Mulkey’s battered and bruised, severely depth-challenged but extremely talented defending national champions lost to Dawn Staley and South Carolina, if the score is to be believed.

South Carolina’s a team purportedly and popularly deemed to be on a different level than the rest of the women’s college basketball field. Much better than LSU, even.

Staley’s got a team of a different breed, they say. South Carolina’s a different animal, altogether, the experts say.

Good for South Carolina.

You know the narrative by now.

For the 16th consecutive time on Sunday, and for the second time this season, this time in the SEC Tournament Championship, LSU lost an SEC game to the Gamecocks.

In a game that will forever be remembered for the brawl instead of the ball, the brawl that brought the intense on-the-court action between the Gamecocks and the Tigers to a 20-minute crawl while referees sorted through the bevy of ejections that it had to deservedly mete out once South Carolina’s 6-7 Kamilla Cardoso clocked LSU’s 5-10 Flau’jae Johnson in front of the world, the Gamecocks prevailed, 79-72.

The ugly melee drew the ire of everyone, including Mulkey and Staley. Staley apologized for her team’s role in it, Mulkey did not apologize for anything. Nor should she have.

On the surface, Staley apologizing makes nothing but sense.

On the surface, Staley’s team caused the brawl when Cardoso lost it all and went through an official, literally, intent on flattening Johnson, which she did.

Benches emptied and Johnson’s brother even leapt from the stands over the scorer’s table and onto the court to defend his sister before being wrangled away by security and later arrested.

The brawl itself muted the game, one that South Carolina led almost throughout, but never could salt away LSU until the very end despite threatening several times in second half to pull away from the undermanned and injured but toughened up Tigers.

It was Staley’s and South Carolina’s eighth SEC Tournament Title in the past 10 years.

It was a game in a conference tournament that Mulkey herself places zero importance on, and it is, in fact, a conference tournament Mulkey even questioned during the three-day slugfest as to why the SEC even bothers to play it at all.

Mulkey’s opinion is apparently that the SEC Tournament detracts from the real goal – winning national championships.

Bottom line, when Mulkey says she plays to win, she’s not talking about the SEC regular season championships – though she’ll take those – and she’s certainly not talking about the SEC Tournament games or championships of that genre. Mulkey’s talking about the national championship. The one and only.

For Kim Mulkey, the regular season, the SEC, and the SEC Tournament, are all about positioning yourself for all that really matters – the NCAA Tournament.

South Carolina and LSU will both be in the NCAA Tournament when it starts late next week. That’s a fact.

South Carolina will be the No. 1 overall seed and the overwhelming favorite to win it all. But the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks won’t win it all this season.

Take your Sharpee out and mark that down.

LSU, on the other hand, will likely be one of four No. 2 seeds and will play two home games in the PMAC and then trek its way back to the Final Four where it may run up against South Carolina one more time this year.

If LSU and South Carolina do meet again this season, expect the third time to be a charm for Mulkey and the Tigers – because LSU and South Carolina are evenly matched. LSU will more than likely be healthy, if or when, the Gamecocks cross its path again.

Is South Carolina really that different of an animal?

Are the Gamecocks really better than LSU?

On paper, yes – to both questions.

Depth-wise, yes.

But in a third matchup where LSU is clearly occupying space inside Cardoso’s and Carolina’s heads? I don’t think South Carolina beats LSU again this season.

South Carolina beat LSU by seven points on a “neutral” court in Greenville, South Carolina on Sunday because of the 24 points in 16 minutes it got from Milaysia Fulwiley, because the Tigers turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, and because LSU was limping and physically impaired.

All-American Angel Reese was playing with a lemon-sized lump in her ankle. Last-Tear Poa was out and in concussion protocol watching the game from the team hotel. LSU’s All- SEC Freshman of the Year and a 29-game starter, Makayla Williams, was pressed into action and severely limited due to a foot injury and All-American Aneesah Morrow played with a noticeable black eye.

Want more?

LSU’s Hailey Van Lith played with all kinds of muscle aches and pains during the three games, and Johnson had to take breaks during numerous points in games to hydrate and get massages because she was battling muscle cramps throughout the SEC Tournament.

When the 6-7 Cardosa attacked the relatively diminutive Johnson from the blind side and laid her out flat out on the court Sunday and then both benches emptied, LSU’s entire bench of reserves ended up getting suspended for the rest of the game. That meant two LSU players were suspended, Williams and freshman Janae Kent.

Two. You counted right. Two reserves.

That’s all LSU had left.

In the first game this season against the Gamecocks in Baton Rouge in February, LSU lost because Reese fouled out with 4 minutes to play.

If LSU and South Carolina do meet again this season, LSU will most likely be healthy, the Tigers won’t allow Milaysia Fulwiley to go off for 24 points again, and Reese will probably not foul out.

Reese may, however, pull Cardoso’s hair some more.

But, more than likely, LSU will not run up against South Carolina again this season because South Carolina will probably get knocked off by an Iowa along the way just like it did last year.

The point is LSU and Kim Mulkey are playing to win.

Rephrase that, “Playing to Win It All – all that really matters.”

South Carolina is a different animal.

The Gamecocks have more depth and clearly have less focus.

In five on five, which is all that can play at one time in a game, LSU is better than South Carolina. And, LSU is now firmly inside South Carolina’s head, not vice-versa. South Carolina’s certainly not in Kim Mulkey’s or Angel Reese’s head, nor Aneesha Morrow’s, Hailey Van Lith’s, Flau’Jae Johnson’s nor Makayla Williams’ or Last-Tear Poa’s. Poa’s CT Scan from the Greenville hospital likely proves that, if you want to check it out.

Understand the point?

Was Mulkey playing to win on Sunday when South Carolina decked LSU?

You bet she was, only she wasn’t interested in winning that particular game as much as she cared about winning the only One that matters – the only one people will truly remember.

That One will come on the final day of the NCAA Tournament. Mulkey is playing every game to win that One game. Again. If the opponent in that game is South Carolina, so be it. It probably won’t be South Carolina, though.

South Carolina probably won’t make it into or out of the Final Four.

But LSU and Kim Mulkey more than likely will because that’s the long game Mulkey, and consequently LSU, has been playing all year.

Mulkey and LSU are not focused on some SEC Tournament Championship game in a tournament that Mulkey says she does not even understand why such is played to begin with.

Depending on how the NCAA bracket shapes up on Selection Sunday this week, LSU and South Carolina may meet again, or they may not.

South Carolina better hope not.

As for Sharpe, his criticism of Mulkey on Monday’s ESPN First-Take is about as stupid as any take could be, especially considering Sharpe’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That’s why I can’t call Sharpe’s comment ignorant. His high-level competitive experience indicates he should know better. But he clearly does not know better. Ergo, Sharpe’s criticism of Mulkey is just plain stupid, not ignorant.

Sharpe took issue with Mulkey saying she wished South Carolina star Kamilla Cardoso would have pushed LSU’s Angel Reese instead of Flau’jae Johnson, as Mulkey noted the height disparity between the two players.

“It’s ugly, it’s not good, no one wants to be a part of that,” Mulkey said in her postgame press conference. “But I’ll tell you this, I wish (Cardoso) would’ve pushed Angel Reese. If you’re 6-8, don’t push somebody that little. That was uncalled for in my opinion. Let those two girls who were jawing, let them go at it.”

Sharpe pushed back on Mulkey on Monday.

Sharpe said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was acting classier for trying to downplay the incident involving one of her players and accused Mulkey of trying to hype the brawl up.

Say what? What part of “ugly” don’t you understand, Shannon?

“You mean it figuratively, not literally. ‘Oh, we’re gonna fight. We’re gonna fight them tooth and nail. We’re gonna scratch and claw. You give nothing, you allow them to take nothing,’” Sharpe explained. “But Kim Mulkey, instead of saying, ‘You know what, sometimes when emotion is high, logic is low. And that’s not what women’s college basketball is about. Especially, with the love and support the women’s game has received this year thanks to Caitlin Clark, thanks to USC, like JuJu Watkins, and some of the others.’ But for you to take that stance: ‘I wish Cardoso could’ve pushed Angel Reese.’ … Really?

“Is that what you want? You want to see a fight? You want the women’s game to be marred by a fight? Really? C’mon Kim Mulkey. You’ve got to be better. And we’ve got to start doing a better job of holding Kim Mulkey accountable and responsible for some of her comments. We let that stuff slide because she’s a national champion. I refuse to do that. I believe she was wrong in this instance and Dawn Staley showed the utmost class and respect, not only for the game, but for her team and the opposing team,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe pointed out that Staley, on the other hand, apologized for the melee when she spoke to ESPN following the game’s end.

“You know, when you’re playing in championship games like this in our league, things get heated,” Staley said after the game. “No bad intentions. Their emotions got so far ahead of them that, sometimes these things happen. I want to apologize for us playing a part in that,” Staley said.

Why are people like Sharpe always trying to distort and contort what Mulkey says and ostracize her?

Staley justly apologized because her player, Cardosa,  assaulted Flau’Jae Johnson. She lost her cool.

Mulkey was very clear in her comments. She said the fight and the attack were ugly, no one wants to see that. It has no place in the game, she said.

Mulkey did not apologize like Staley did because Mulkey’s players did not do anything that Mulkey had to apologize for.

Getting inside the other team’s head is part of the game.

It’s within the rules of the game, and it is not against the law, like the assault Cardoso committed against Johnson was, game or no game. Johnson’s brother was jailed for much less.

Mulkey did not say these exact words, but I somehow heard her – between the lines – if you will.

“We’ll catch you down the road, South Carolina. Soon. If you make it to the Show or the Final Four, because we’re going to be there. Looking forward to seeing you again when it matters. Or not . . . Only next time, if there is a next time, it’ll be a fair fight.”

Get it, Sharpe?

I doubt it.

Why is that not surprising?

12 Comments

  1. This has to be one of the most “Im an LSU fan” articles EVER! To sit there and say Kim said nothing wrong and the fight was SC fault and not blame LSU is wild.

    • Well he read YOUR article, and was polite in his observation.

      What a biased, ignorant, pandering pile of manure.
      You choose to ignore and cover up the staggering lack of character this coach has, for her entire career. Whitewashing a “winning is the only thing” jerk is just plain stupid.

    • Great article. You printed what needed to be said. They don’t understand Mulkey or the team and their goals.. she has stated repeatedly throughout the last two years that the Natty is the goal!

  2. Very well written article. I think you expressed what a lot of LSU fans feel about the game, the coach, and Sharpe.

  3. That brawl was 100% on Flau’jae. She intentionally fouled Fulwiley and then threw an elbow at Watkins. Cardoso was just defending her teammates against Flau’jae’s nonsense.

    Just dumb for Mulkey to act like Cardoso was picking on lil ol’ Flau’jae. If she doesn’t want that heat, stop throwing elbows.

    The difference between the coaches’ statements is glaring, but it is also glaring that we are just supposed to defend horrible behavior because Mulkey & Co. are from LSU.

    Winning isn’t everything. No amount of national titles can cover up garbage attitudes or trashy behavior. And this article is dumb for pretending otherwise. Adding another title will not turn this loss or this mess into a “win.” It’d just show that sometimes good things happen to terrible people.

    Straighten up. Act right. And properly represent the university and the state on the big stage.

  4. I guess this is “journalism” these days. I’m an LSU fan, but this is just an incoherent, pandering rant, defending LSU’s coach who has little or no character. You can do better dude. Just because you write for the Tiger Rag, doesn’t mean you can’t write objective articles.

  5. I don’t get how you can say LSU is better than SC when they have lost to them 16 or 17 straight times, 4 straight times since Mulkey took over, including twice this year. Until LSU beats them at least once, that claim cannot be made, regardless of the score and how close they came to beating SC. A loss is a loss, whether by 80 or by 1.
    You say LSU lost because Reese fouled out, which may be true and may not be true. That’s something we will never know, and hypothetical, but what we do know is that they lost, regardless, and that’s a fact.

    Mulkey’s player, Flau’Jae, did do something (push ashlyn Watkins, which started the whole thing) which was worthy of an apology, although she doesn’t have to apologise if she does not want to. You also didn’t mention, from what i read, Mulkey’s comments saying she wishes cardoso had “pushed Angel Reese”, and “let those two go at it”, but judging from your biased article, i’m not surprised.
    Also, LSU are firmly in south carolina’s head, and not vice versa? Based on what, the fact that South Carolina keep losing to them, i mean, beating them? Considering LSU have lost 16 or 17 straight times to SC, i would have thought it to be more likely the other way around, but hey, what do i know?

    • I appreciate your thoughts and opinions.
      My statement that I think LSU is better is based only on this season at this point. If they don’t play again this year, which I think they likely won’t, then you will forever be right and my statement will continue to look absurd. I realize that. Played and coached the sport for several years, just calling it as I see it.
      I think had Reese not fouled out and LSU had not lost its rebounding advantage inside with four minutes to play in that game, LSU would have won. That’s what I think. You’re right, may or may not be what would have actually transpired.
      Watkins got in Flau’jae’s face and you don’t do that. Flau’jae’s intentional foul was a smart play.
      I don’t think my article is biased. I think you missed the overall point. My opinion.
      As to who is in who’s head, who lost their head? Who got ejected for fighting?
      Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate them.

  6. One of the dumbest articles ever written on the Internet. Saying it was right for Dawn Staley to apologize for the role her players had in the brawl while at the same time arguing that mulkey didn’t have to,is asinine. Also, blaming South Carolina for starting the brawl when it was clearly Flau’jae Johnson who shoved ashlyn Watkins first, makes us all wonder if you actually watched this game. Cardoso was defending her teammate which is what you do.

    Shannon Sharpe was right, Kim Mulkey had always been a classless airhead.

    Get a course!

  7. Mica,
    Flau’Jae started nothing . . . she committed a smart foul, intentionally, on Fulwiley to prevent an easy layup following Fulwiley’s steal, then brushed Watkins away because Watkins purposely got up in her face taunting her, which should have been a technical foul. Cardosa comes out of nowhere, literally, and goes through an official to blindside and flatten Flau’Jae. What exactly is Mulkey supposed to apologize for in that sequence? Whatever course you’re suggesting I take, I’ll pass. But I would suggest you seek therapy.

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