Commentary: Kim Mulkey, Brittney Griner, and loyalty

USA TODAY Sports

Baylor Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey has demonstrated a pattern of loyalty to her players that didn't end with Brittney Griner.

Kim Mulkey made Brittney Griner. No doubt. Griner did not make Mulkey.

Griner entered Baylor University in 2009 as a sensitive, sweet kid - in Mulkey's words - without an identity.

Mulkey taught her to be a young woman first and then a basketball player second. That has been the way she has treated all of her players at Louisiana Tech and Baylor.

Take a look at the punch incident against Jordan Barncastle of Texas Tech on March 4,2010. Was Griner goaded by Barncastle and the Tech crowd? For sure. But the punch was not the appropriate response. Mulkey went out of her way to defend Griner and at the same time to do all within her power to keep Griner's temper in check. She was victorious in this quest, almost to her coaching detriment as Griner was so conditioned to not lose her temper that she reacted with passivity in the loss to Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen this year.

And let's call it accurately: Griner had a lousy game against Louisville and did little, despite her coaches' urgings, to assert herself. Perhaps Mulkey committed a coaching error by not taking Griner out and going small in the second half to throw Jeff Walz and Louisville off, but it was more loyalty to Griner that kept her in the game.

Mulkey put the loss totally on her shoulders at the postgame press conference. She went out of her way to do that as any good coach would. Again, she insulated Griner from criticism.

"As I told them in the locker room, I'll take every hit you want to write, about we choked, Baylor or bust, epic disappointment," Mulkey said after the Louisville loss. "Put it right here on these shoulders. Don't you point one finger on those kids, you put it right on me."

A couple of weeks later, Mulkey made a 10 hour round trip journey to Bristol, CT. to support Griner at the April 15 WNBA draft and yet Griner did not attend the Baylor banquet later in the month.

Was it Griner's agent who wanted to keep her on the front pages of the papers with her criticism of Mulkey or rebellion by a frustrated Griner which led to her comments about Mulkey? One may never know as Griner is not talking anymore, but one thing is for sure: you will never hear Mulkey bad mouth Griner publicly. It is not her way for a member of her family. And you had better believe from a source close to the Baylor program that her players are members of her family.

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