Quick. Name the only person in college basketball history to win a national championship as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach. It's the most accomplished coach LSU has ever hired in any sport. It's new women's basketball head coach Kim Mulkey.
She returns to her home state with a resume that includes six national titles: two as a player at Louisiana Tech, one as a Tech assistant and three as the head coach at Baylor, most recently in 2019. She also won an Olympic gold medal as a player, and she was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in May.
After 21 years as the boss at Baylor, she took the LSU job in April and started winning not long after. Three Tigers who'd already played four college seasons each at LSU decided to take advantage of the new COVID eligibility rule and return for a fifth year together. Guards Khayla Pointer and Jailin Cherry and center Faustine Aifuwa give Mulkey a talented veteran core to build on after the Tigers went 9-13 overall and 6-8 in the SEC last season.
"It's exciting to be on the court with young people who embrace you," Mulkey said during a "Build Up 2 Basketball" interview on the SEC Network's Out of Pocket. "They have bought into what we're trying to do, and I'm so appreciative of the five returning seniors, three especially in Khayla Pointer, Jailin Cherry and Faustine. Those three kids set the example for loving LSU. They want to do good, and they want to have a great year."
Pointer's return may have been the biggest boost and the biggest surprise. Last season, she was named to the All-SEC first team and the All-SEC defensive team after leading the Tigers in minutes and scoring at 16.9 points a game. On a personal note, Nikki Fargas, who stepped down after 10 years as the second-winningest coach in program history to pursue another opportunity, is Pointer's aunt.
"First of all, what impressed me is she is Nikki's niece and she chose to stay," Mulkey said. "The second thing that impresses me is that she plays hard. She wants to win. She has to be a leader for us. She has to be one that's gonna get a lot of the blame and gonna get a lot of the credit.
"She has to be the coach on the floor, and I'm probably going to challenge her more than Nikki ever did. And that's OK because I want her to have an opportunity to experience great success this last year, and I want her to be mentioned someday to be looked at by the WNBA. As I do Cherry and Faus."
Pointer has played in 110 games for LSU. Cherry has played in 101. Aifuwa has played in 109 and is in her sixth year after missing her true freshman season with a knee injury.
"Those three guys," Mulkey said, "I'm indebted to them that they stayed and they allowed me to coach 'em."
With those veteran leaders and a championship coach, there's been a renewed enthusiasm around the LSU program. The first official practice drew a crowd of about 300 people, Mulkey said. A fan event Tuesday attracted a couple hundred more. Season ticket sales have surpassed 4,000.
"Honestly, the community is excited," Mulkey said.
It's what happens when the new coach brings rings.