World

L.S.U.’s Kim Mulkey Courts Controversy With Style

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And though she is not the only style-forward coach in the game — Dawn Staley of South Carolina, Adia Barnes of the University of Arizona, and Sydney Carter, the director of player development for the University of Texas are lauded for their image-making flair — Ms. Mulkey is the most extreme. She has been compared to a Who from Dr. Seuss’s Whoville, Ric Flair of WrestleMania and a flamingo. (Well, she has been called a “rare bird.”)

Whether you consider her looks merely “eccentric,” as Ms. Bordonaro does, or straight from “the Las Vegas clown section,” as Tom Broecker, the costume designer of “Saturday Night Live,” does, it may matter less than the fact that you consider them at all.

“She’s making a statement about her individuality and determination to be herself, no matter what,” Ms. Gibbs of Power Plays said. “It has become something people look out for, and she’s leaning in.”

Ms. Mulkey’s penchant for outré dress began to emerge during her 21 years at Baylor, in which she led her team to three national championships. During that time, she also courted controversy with comments dismissing the university’s sexual misconduct scandal and her treatment of her star player, Brittney Griner, who has talked publicly about being told to stay in the closet by her coach and to cover her tattoos. (Later, Ms. Mulkey did not speak up when Ms. Griner was imprisoned in Russia in 2022.) Still, her style was a lot more “normal, for want of a better word,” Ms. Gibbs said.

It was during L.S.U.’s run to the N.C.A.A. trophy last year that Ms. Mulkey vaulted from basketball fame to national fame, thanks in part to her penchant for sequins, feathers and lurid color combinations. She wore a black and white sequined polka-dot pantsuit, a Kelly green and hot pink plaid jacket with pink feathers on the sleeves, a rose-pink jacket with enormous … well, roses, on the sleeves and, for the final game, an allover sequined tiger-stripe pantsuit. (The tiger is the L.S.U. mascot.) Riding in the celebration parade afterward, she chose a purple sequined jacket with more tigers.



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