Kim Mulkey-Robertson biography
Date of birth : 1962-05-17
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Santa Ana, California, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2011-08-26
Credited as : Women's basketball coach, ,
A naturally talented athlete Mulkey-Robertson focused on the sport of basketball by the time she was in high school. A state champion on the high school level, Mulkey-Robertson came into the national spotlight as a college player at Louisiana Tech. She began her coaching career at Louisiana Tech as well. Though expected to become the head coach at her alma mater, a contract disagreement led to her assuming head duties at Baylor University. Within five years, she turned around that school's struggling program and coached her team to the NCAA women's national championship in 2005. With that win, she became the first woman to win the NCAA tournament as both a coach and player.
Born on May 17, 1962, in Hammond, Louisiana, Mulkey-Robertson was raised in rural Tickfaw, Louisiana, with her younger sister, Tammy. Both girls were active in sports from an early age. Their father, Les, taught them several sports. Mulkey-Robertson particularly took to competition, primarily in baseball and basketball. She and her sister played Little League because there was no softball program for girls.
As a child, Mulkey-Robertson focused much of her attention on baseball. By the time she was 12 years old, she was considered the best baseball player in her area, better than all the boys. When the local Little League held its draft, she was selected first as a 12 year old. She played well and made a regional all-star team. Mulkey-Robertson garnered media attention at the game, which was played in another municipality, because she was told by the local commissioner that she was not allowed to participate in the game because of her gender. To protect her interests, her father obtained a restraining order so the game could not be played. However, Mulkey-Robertson decided that the game should go on and did not want the order enforced. She supported her team by cheering for them near the dugout. Her team won and dedicated the victory to her. Mulkey-Robertson never had to face this problem again when she moved up to the Pony League for older players.
In addition to her athletic skills, Mulkey-Robertson was also an outstanding student who never missed a day of school. This academic success continued when she entered Hammond High School. By the time she began high school, Mulkey-Robertson stopped playing baseball and focused on basketball. She dominated the girls' basketball program for the whole of her high school career, 1976 to 1980. In addition to being a four-year letter winner, Mulkey-Robertson was a four-year starter. Her team also won the state championship four straight times. Mulkey-Robertson averaged 38 points per game and set a high scoring record. She also set a national scoring record by netting 4,075 points over the course of her high school career. Mulkey-Robertson was not only a great athlete; she maintained a 4.0 grade point average and was the valedictorian of her class.
After high school, Mulkey-Robertson entered Louisiana Tech because it had the best women's basketball program in the state at the time. She was recruited by other schools, including the future powerhouse Louisiana State University, as well. As in high school, Mulkey-Robertson played all four years for the Lady Techsters and was a four-year letter winner. Though she only stood 5'4", Mulkey-Robertson did not play like women were expected to, but with a brashness. A great passer, she was able to pass the ball behind her back, between her legs and sometimes between opponents. Her play, as well as her blonde French braids, earned Mulkey-Robertson national attention.
In sum, the team's record during the four years that Mulkey-Robertson played was 130 wins and only six losses. She won several awards as a senior, including the first Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award in 1984. This award was given to the best basketball player in the nation under the height of 5'7". Mulkey-Robertson also earned her bachelor's degree in 1984, and won the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. As Bill Campbell wrote in the Times-Picayune, "When she was 21 years old, Mulkey was a darling of the women's basketball worldthe tiny point guard in the pigtails who set national high school scoring records before leading her college team to national championships and her country to Olympic gold."
While Mulkey-Robertson was a college student-athlete, she also participated in several international competitions and won regularly. In 1981, she won a gold medal with the South Team, while playing at the Olympic Festival held in Syracuse, New York. The following year, Mulkey-Robertson was a member of the USA Basketball select team. In 1983, she played on the American team which won gold at the Pan Am Games, which were held in Caracus, Venezuela. At the 1984 Summer Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles, California, Mulkey-Robertson played on the U.S. women's basketball team, which also won gold.
After the Olympics, Mulkey-Robertson returned to Louisiana Tech to begin graduate school. She was studying business and did not intend to become a coach. However, during class one day, she was taken out of a class by escort to meet with the university's president on the matter. The president asked her to work with Leon Barmore, who was hired to be the Lady Techsters' head coach in 1985.
Mulkey-Robertson served as an assistant coach for Louisiana Tech's women's basketball team from 1985 to 1996. In 1996, she was promoted to associate head coach. During her coaching run at Louisiana Tech, the team's record was impressive. The Lady Techsters had a record of 430 wins and 68 losses. Seven times, the team made it to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament. Louisiana Tech won only one NCAA title, in 1988. They lost in the championship game three times: in 1987, 1994, and 1998.
During this time, Mulkey-Roberton's personal life was also transformed. She married Randy Robertson in 1987. Like his wife, Robertson had been an athlete at Louisiana Tech, playing for the football team as a quarterback. He was the owner of a public relations firm. The couple had two children, Mackenzie and Kramer. Mulkey-Robertson brought her kids with her when she had to travel as long as it did not have to interfere with their attendance at school.
Mulkey-Robertson thought she and her family would be at Louisiana Tech for life. Barmore had selected her to be his successor as head coach when he chose to retire. In 2000, when Barmore retired, the school offered Mulkey-Robertson a four-year contract. She was offended by that offer. She wanted a five-year deal, which she believed was standard among coaches. Mulkey-Robertson told Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I felt I deserved loyalty. If I had been given a five-year offer, I would have stayed. Thank God for unanswered prayers. Baylor was the school that called."
Other schools had made offers to her while she worked at Louisiana Tech. Schools such as Texas A M, Missouri, South Carolina, and Oklahoma had shown interest. Mulkey-Robertson instead signed on to be head coach of a program without the same prestige of Louisiana Tech nor a reputation for winning. On April 4, 2000, she was named head coach of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, with the five-year deal she wanted. The contract allegedly was worth about one million dollars over the life of the contract. Mulkey-Robertson was only the fourth coach in the team's history.
Mulkey-Robertson slowly built the Baylor Lady Bears into winners. The season before she was hired, the team won only seven games. Her first order of business was recruiting players, which was tough in a state with several prestigious programs. This problem would plague her throughout the early days of her coaching career with Baylor, but she worked hard with the players she did get. These new players were not necessarily stars in the programs they came from, but Mulkey-Robertson worked with the athletes to make them winners. She also helped returning players to improve and think better of themselves as athletes. Mulkey-Robertson gave the team a new attitude, one that embraced winning.
In the first season in which she was head coach, Mulkey-Robertson turned the team around. The Lady Bears won 21 games that first season and were given an invitation to the NCAA tournament. Baylor, however, was knocked out of the tournament in the first round. They won a similar amount of games in 2001-02, and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2002. Mulkey-Robertson's team got better and better in 2003 through 2005. In 2003, the Lady Bears were not invited to the NCAA tournament; instead, they went to the WNIT (Women's National Invitational Tournament). They made the finals, but lost in the final round. In 2004, the Lady Bears returned to the NCAA tournament and made the round of 16.
While Mulkey-Robertson was building a worthwhile program at Baylor, she also had to deal with related negative public perception and misfortune. The men's basketball team at Baylor suffered a horrific tragedy in 2003 when one player, Carlton Dotson, was arrested for the murder of his teammate, Patrick Dennehy. In addition, it was revealed that head coach Dave Bliss had tried to hide the improper benefits given to Dennehy by spreading rumors that the deceased player had been a drug dealer. Bliss resigned, as did the school's athletic director Tom Stanton, and the Baylor name was dragged through the mud. The success of Mulkey-Robertson's team helped heal these wounds and improve the Baylor name. Mulkey-Robertson commented to Lori Riley of the Hartford Courant, "We're a positive in Waco. There's a lot of good there."
Mulkey-Robertson had her moment of triumph which helped overshadow these issues in 2005. Her Lady Bears, led by Sophia Young and Steffanie Blackmon, won the 2005 NCAA women's basketball tournament. They defeated Michigan State University in the championship game by the score of 84 to 62 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana, after posting a regular season record of 33 wins and three losses. The team had made it to the finals by defeating three number-one seeded teams along the way.
Through the 2004-05 season, the Lady Bears under Mulkey-Robertson had an impressive record, with 131 wins and 38 losses. After the success of the 2004-05 season, Mulkey-Robertson signed a six-year contract extension, which included an increase in salary, with Baylor. This deal would make her Baylor's coach through 2011.
With all her success at Baylor, her hometown had not forgotten her. Tickfaw named a street "Kim Mulkey Drive." Yet economic realities have not been lost on her and she rewards loyalty with loyalty. Joseph Sanchez of the Denver Post quoted Mulkey-Robertson as saying, "Louisiana Tech was my heart and soul for 19 years, and I'll always want to see Louisiana Tech do well. But times have changed. The bigger conferences are paying higher salaries; the teams in the bigger conferences are getting more exposure. It's just a different era."
Basketball player activity:
- Louisiana Tech University, 1980-84;
- played for South team at Olympic Festival, Syracuse, NY, 1981;
- member of USA Basketball Select Team, 1982;
- member of U.S. women's basketball team, Pan Am Games, 1983;
- member of U.S. Olympic women's basketball team, 1984;
- assistant coach, Louisiana Tech, 1985-96, then associate head coach, 1996-2000;
- head coach, Baylor University, 2000.
- Gold medal winner (women's basketball, South team), Olympic Festival, Syracuse, NY, 1981;
- Academic All-American, 1983, 1984;
- gold medal winner (women's basketball), Pan Am Games, 1983;
- NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winner, 1984;
- James Corbett Award for Louisiana's College Athlete of the Year, 1984;
- Frances Pomeroy Naismith Small Player of the Year, 1984;
- gold medal winner (women's basketball), Summer Olympic Games, 1984;
- inducted into National High School of Fame, 1985;
- inducted into Louisiana High School Hall of Fame, 1986;
- inducted into Louisiana Sports Writer Hall of Fame, 1990;
- inducted into Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame, 1992;
- inducted into Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, 2000;
- -National Coach of the Year Award, Real Sport Magazine, 2001;
- named Big 12 Coach of the Year, Dallas Morning News, 2001;
- named Big 12 Coach of the Year, Waco Tribune-Herald, 2001;
- Senior College Coach of the Year Award, Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, 2002;
- inducted into CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame, 2003;
- named Big 12 Coach of the Year, Big 12 Athletic Conference, 2005;
- Winged Foot Award, National Athletic Club, 2005.