TAMPA, Fla. – Kim Mulkey climbed the steps to the dais at the Final Four, six-month-old grandson Kannon Reid in tow, and the baby’s proud mother watching from the side.
Family has always been important to one of the nation’s most successful women’s college basketball coaches, though never more than the past couple of seasons with Mulkey coping with the death of her first grandchild while also continuing to win big at Baylor.
The Lady Bears (36-1) will seek their third national title on Sunday, facing defending champion Notre Dame (35-3) in the first NCAA final featuring a pair of female head coaches since Mulkey and the Fighting Irish’s Muffet McGraw also met in 2012.
The matchup comes just days after McGraw made headlines by saying she will not hire male assistants in the future because she feels there should be more coaching opportunities for women in the sport.
Mulkey said Saturday that she supports McGraw, but quibbled with the idea of “never” considering a man for an opening.
Family is a reason.
Mulkey’s daughter, Makenzie Fuller, is a former Baylor player, as well as Kannon Reid’s mother and serves as an associate director of basketball operations for the Lady Bears.
The coach’s son, Kramer Robertson, is a shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A Springfield affiliate.
“I understand her points, without a doubt. But I’m of the belief, I want the best person for the job,” Mulkey said. “I have a son, and I would be honored if my son wanted to coach next to me. (McGraw) has a son. I think she would be honored if he wanted to coach women’s basketball,” Mulkey added. “So I tend to stay away from saying the word ‘never.“’
McGraw walked back her comments but stressed there’s absolutely a need to have more opportunities for women on coaching staffs.
As associate director of basketball operations, Fuller is in Tampa, Florida, for the ride.
Only a week into the 2017-18 season, she lost her unborn child about 18 weeks into her pregnancy.
The baby with two life-threatening birth defects had no heartbeat when Fuller went to a doctor’s appointment, and the baby girl was delivered after labor was induced.
Kannon Reid was born last October.
“You bet I’m going to hang onto him. Holding a child up here is a heck of a lot more touching than holding one right here that’s deceased,” Mulkey said, extending her hands. “I’ve done both in the last year and a half. … In my world, anybody will tell you it is about family first.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.