COLUMBIA — With a 72-57 win over Missouri on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey won her 200th game against only 54 losses in her career in Waco. She is the sixth-fastest coach ever to reach the 200-win plateau, and she did it at a program starved for national success until her arrival on campus in 2000.
In her predecessor Sonja Hogg’s final season, the Bears struggled to a 7-20 finish, including a last place, 2-14 record in the Big 12. Mulkey turned around the program in a matter of months, guiding Baylor to a 21-9 record and its first NCAA tournament berth in her initial season. Since then, Mulkey and the Bears have reached five other NCAA tournaments and the WNIT finals in her seven seasons, averaging 26.1 wins. She reached the pinnacle in 2005, when she led the Bears to the national championship, the first team sport national championship in Baylor’s history.
The title also made Mulkey the first person to win the championship as a player (Louisiana Tech, 1982), assistant coach (Louisiana Tech, 1988) and head coach.
Mulkey hasn’t slowed down in her eighth season. She has the Bears ranked sixth in the country and off to a 17-1 start, including 5-0 in the Big 12 after the win over Missouri. The milestone victory Wednesday puts her in an elite group of coaches, but she refuses to give herself any credit or accept any of the praise heaped upon her.
“I don’t have a thought of it (the 200th win) at all,” Mulkey said. “I never mentioned it to the players. If I do have to say something, it’s just indicative of the talented kids I’ve had the chance to coach at Baylor. A win is a win.”
When pressed on the issue, she refused to budge.
“I don’t mean to downplay it, but honest to goodness, I don’t know that it means anything to the program,” she said. “I don’t know that it means anything other than that I’ve coached a lot of kids that can play.”
While she wouldn’t relent, her players were more than happy to congratulate their coach.
Junior guard Jhasmin Player, who led the Bears with 18 points on 9-of-15 shooting against the Tigers, saw Mulkey’s modesty coming.
“I said she would do this last week,” Player said, laughing. “I called it.
“Coach is incredible, you can’t ignore it, I’m just congratulating her, she’ll ignore it, and it doesn’t matter to her. I’ll give her a pat on the back, but tomorrow we’ll be working in the gym just like she had 199.”
The Tigers, now losers of three straight going into a two-game road swing through Texas and Texas A&M, had their chances to prevent Mulkey from earning the big win, but never caught the rhythm necessary to gain the upset.
“I felt like Baylor was ripe for the picking,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “I don’t feel like they played their best game, but neither did we. When you’re against the No. 6 team in the country, you have to be on your ‘A’ game and we weren’t.”
With Baylor snapping a six-game losing streak to No. 11 Oklahoma on Sunday and awaiting a Saturday matchup with 3-1 conference surprise Nebraska, Stein thought the Tigers had a chance to steal a win over the Bears for the second time in three seasons.
“I thought they were a little sluggish, and we really missed out on an opportunity,” she said. “You’ve got to take advantage of those situations. We needed to play with a little bit more fire in us, and you have to go after teams like that.”
In addition to Player’s 18 points, sophomore forward Danielle Wilson hit 7-of-9 shots to finish with 16 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Bears.
“I have a basketball team that is knowledgeable and pretty experienced,” Mulkey said. “This game can be a trap coming off such a high against Oklahoma, but if you’re really going to be a contender in this league and in the playoffs, you have to be able to get high enough for every game.”
That is the type of teaching that makes Mulkey one of the high risers in women’s college basketball today, even if she doesn’t want to hear it.