Scooter Hobbs column: Mulkey’s big-game etiquette
Published 11:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2024
Don’t mess with Kim Mulkey. The LSU women’s basketball coach, if not running the Tigers’ athletic department these days, does seem to get her way most of the time.
For one thing she made LSU fans care about the women’s game — something men’s coach Matt McMahon is still struggling with, though he seems to be making progress.
Don’t let the fru-fru sideline attire fool you. She’s pretty feisty on most issues. And you don’t want to cross her.
Email newsletter signup
So maybe her warnings will do some good.
Her basketball team, the defending national champions — it took her only two years — has a huge game Thursday night in the Maravich(-Mulkey?) Assembly Center against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten South Carolina.
Well, anyway, it’s as big as it gets in the regular season.
Huuuuge. It’s so big that ESPN will originate its basketball version of “GameDay” at 6 p.m. in advance of the huuuuge tip-off an hour later, one of only five trips the show will make to a women’s game site and the first-ever to the House of Kim.
Great for the program. Great for women’s basketball. Great for Mulkey.
But with it comes pressure — the kind Mulkey thrives on.
You need to go ahead and win the big showdown for it to mean much.
But that’s not it either.
Mulkey almost seems more worried about what might happen after the game if (when?) her team should prevail than whether to go zone or man-to-man.
Hear her out.
She has decreed in advance that there be no rushing of the court should a postgame celebration ensue.
Go crazy folks — but stay in your seats! Or at least off the floor.
And she sounded like she meant it.
Understand, this isn’t about money.
Yes, if students and their elders should spill onto the court, the NCAA turns a blind eye, but the Southeastern Conference will fine LSU a hefty sum, something like $100,000. I’m sure the athletic department could scrape it up. They’ve made bail for the student body in the past, mostly football-related.
It’s about the silliest, most useless thing the SEC attempts to do as the looming price tag has never produced one iota of deterrence when college students want to be college students.
But this is about dignity.
As Mulkey put it on her radio show this week: “Don’t allow it to be bigger than it really is. We’re not going to run on the floor if we beat them. You’re the defending national champions. Act like you’ve been there.”
LSU has a mixed history in this regard.
In this case, again, it’s LSU that is the defending national champion. True, South Carolina is undefeated and ranked No. 1 and won the lone meeting last year, in Columbia. But the Gamecocks stumbled before they could meet LSU in the NCAA Tournament, which is what really counts.
Never mind that LSU has two losses. It’s South Carolina that should be all fiery-eyed about Thursday’s game.
LSU is still trying to live down the embarrassing spectacle two years ago when the football Tigers beat Ole Miss — Ole Miss! — and an impromptu Mardi Gras spilled out from the stands and onto the playing field. And they did it again two weeks later with a true upset of Alabama.
Alabama football, by the way, has never paid a dime in penalties for its fans rushing the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
What does that tell you?
For that matter, for all the fun LSU baseball fans have had with postgame send-offs to Omaha from Alex Box Stadium, never once have the fans rushed the diamond during the celebration.
They appreciate the effort. But, really, deep down they’ve grown to expect it, dang near demand it. The fan base sometimes is more confident than the team.
It’s what LSU women’s basketball — football, too, for that matter — should aspire to.
So LSU fans should listen to Mulkey on this one.
“Scream and shout,” she said, “but I don’t want anyone running out on the floor like we just won the national championship.”
There will be plenty of time for that.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org