TAMPA, Fla. — There has been a debate recently about the appropriateness of college coaches yelling at players.
Tom Izzo, who has led Michigan State to the men’s Final Four for the eighth time, was criticized for a verbal confrontation earlier in the tournament with freshman forward Aaron Henry.
UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma said an over-sensitive society, including NCAA leaders and athletic directors, has made most coaches “afraid of their players.”
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, not exactly known as a teddy bear on the court, recalled a different era during her Final Four news conference Thursday at Amalie Arena, where the top-seeded Bears will play Oregon in a national semifinal Friday (4 p.m., ESPN2).
The year before the NCAA established a women’s tournament, Mulkey was part of Louisiana Tech’s AIAW national championship team, which won the title March 30, 1981, in Eugene.
Mulkey painted an intense picture of the locker room following Louisiana Tech’s 66-50 win over USC in the semifinals at McArthur Court. Associate head coach Leon Barmore’s postgame pep talk stayed with the team’s fiery 5-foot-4 point guard.
“We won by 16 points. We're excited. We get in that locker room, and they had trash cans. I'm telling you, (Barmore) let those trash cans fly,” Mulkey recalled. “We just sat there. We're getting ready to play for a national championship, and you're throwing trash cans? But we loved it. He knew we were that close to a national championship, and it was just the intensity of the moment.”
Mulkey doesn’t plan to trash Baylor’s locker room at Amalie Arena, but not because she’s traumatized by the scene at Mac Court.
“What's wrong with that? Right? He got our attention,” Mulkey continued. “Here I am 56 years old and I remember the moment. We can laugh about it, talk about how wonderful it was. But he got us ready for that championship game.”
Mulkey’s Lady Techsters beat Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols, 79-59, for the title. They are on the shortlist of programs that still use the gender qualification for the nickname of their women’s basketball teams, along with the Lady Bears.
“Then we go out and win a national championship,” Mulkey said. “I remember people saying, ‘Getting mean in Eugene.’ Whatever that meant.”
Louisiana Tech won the first NCAA Tournament in 1982, defeating Cheyney 76-62 in the championship game in Norfolk, Va.
Mulkey played in the last two AIAW Final Fours and the first two NCAA Tournament Final Fours. The Techsters had a 130-6 record during the four-year run.
“I think that first banner you see out there was 1982, and I was a part of that team,” Mulkey said. “I don't remember a whole lot about a lot of things, but was it Cheyney State, (coached by) Vivian Stringer. Older than me (laughter)."
Mulkey has won two national championships at Baylor and is making her fourth Final Four appearance with the Bears.
During the program’s first title run, Baylor beat 10th-seeded Oregon 69-46 in the second round in Seattle on March 21, 2005.
Bev Smith, who led the Ducks to two AIAW tournaments when Mulkey was at Louisiana Tech, was Oregon’s coach.
“I can't tell you specifics of the game, but the excitement of ’05 for our school and our program started out there,” Mulkey said of the Bears’ trip to the Pacific Northwest. "And it just continued onto the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, which is no longer there.”
The Ducks did not appear in the NCAA Tournament again until 2017. Now Oregon is looking for its first national championship at Mulkey’s expense.
Baylor’s coach won’t let her team go out quietly.
“I think the way I coach, I am able to do and say things that maybe a lot of coaches aren't comfortable saying and doing,” Mulkey said of her style. “Because I coach with passion, I coach with a great level of intensity. I'm not so smart that I'm never wrong. I tell them when I'm wrong in the locker room.
“Kids feel that. Kids know. So they allow me to really push them beyond limits that they think they’re even having, but they know it's not to harm them in any way.”