Nobody knows what the hell is going on at LSU.
Their title defense has been a bumpier ride than anyone expected. Kim Mulkey captured the 2023 Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year. Mikaylah Williams, McDonald’s All-American Aalyah Del Rosario and Louisville transfer Hailey Van Lith as additions to the preseason no. 1 team. Most importantly, they returned the Final Four’s most outstanding player, Angel Reese. After an offseason of their stars enjoying the spoils of March Madness victory, the entire program devolved into bickering between parents, accusations that Reese was failing classes, and Mulkey’s most loathsome traits after she showed little regard for potential to make journalists and her team sick with COVID.
After an underwhelming first half last week against Kent State, Reese was benched for the second half and has not appeared in court since. As a defending national champion whose stardom extends beyond the confines of women’s hoops, LSU’s reluctance to address the unfolding absence of Reese was made a mess by Mulkey. The coach’s reluctance to clarify has fueled theories, fed rumor mills and reminded everyone of the dichotomy between her coaching brilliance and incompetence as the voice of LSU women’s hoops.
LSU’s title defense got off to a poor enough start with a loss to unranked Colorado. But the powerhouses, Iowa and UConn, were also upset and continued to grind. There is no indication that Reese will rejoin the team in the near future. Cryptic social media posts from Reese got lost in the fog and ambiguous statements from Mulkey only added to the mystery.
The benefits of LSU playing drama-free basketball is that Mulkey can fade into the background behind her marquee players when things are going well. As a crisis manager, she is the worst we have seen since George W.’s FEMA director slept through Hurricane Katrina. Every time Mulkey opens her mouth, it’s to make the worst noises possible. When Brittney Griner was trapped in a Russian prison, Mulkey refused to offer support. But if you asked her about COVID testingor on defend her employer because she put aside a sexual assault scandal, she becomes a relative motor mouth.
When asked to clarify Reese’s status after she was benched against Kent State, Mulkey chose to market the drama rather than support her player.
“I guess you should have a ticket to see, huh,” Mulkey quipped. “Well, you better get a ticket and see.”
After Reese didn’t even appear on the bench against Southeastern Louisiana on Friday, Mulkey was much more pointed, but declined to provide any specifics.
The problem is that Reese has always been a target of a certain demographic’s tendency to associate her assertive attitude with self-control. Mulkey didn’t help her cause, while Reese vaguely addressed her absence Instagram posts. Presumably, Reese will eventually return to the court. Outkick’s Glen Guilbeau reported that Reese’s suspension is part of an attitude adjustment. What attitude Mulkey is disciplining Reese with is left up to interpretation due to Mulkey’s reluctance to address the issue in a straightforward manner. In that vacuum of leadership, auxiliary figures’ voices crowded the space.
Last week, the mothers of Angel Reese and custodian Flau’jae Johnson sparred through social media posts, leading to questions about Reese’s academic standing. Critics have turned this team into an indictment of the NIL era. Opponents of the rights enjoyed by student-athletes have spent years looking for an example to single out. Women’s basketball is an easy target. Opponents can attack the quality of basketball, the athleticism compared to the men’s game and yawn about how NIL money ruined college athletics with one hand and holding a tiki torch with their other hand.
Meanwhile, LSU will roll through their non-conference schedule. By the time January rolls around, this saga will be long over, allowing Mulkey to fade to the sidelines where she and LSU are better served.
Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebral sports text