LSU’s Kim Mulkey is making Pistol Pete Maravich Proud

A few years ago, the scene Thursday night in Baton Rouge would have been unimaginable.

ESPN’s College Basketball Game Day crew was broadcasting “live” from inside of LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center an hour before the tip-off of a top ten basketball match-up.  The PMAC was already packed with a standing room only crowd of more than 13,000 loud and rowdy fans.

No, this scene was not because the Kentucky Wildcats were in town to play the LSU men’s basketball team.

Thursday night’s sell-out crowd was on-hand a full hour early to get fired up to cheer on the defending national champion LSU women’s basketball team as they would take on this year’s #1 team, the University of South Carolina.  Ticket entrepreneurs were getting up to $150 for a seat at Thursday night’s regular season SEC battle in Baton Rouge.

Carolina came into the contest as the nation’s last remaining unbeaten team (men or women) at 17-0.  LSU was ranked #9 and featured a record of 18-2.  The Tigers were trying to protect a 29-game home court winning streak.

Remembering Pistol Pete

All of the excitement for LSU basketball reminded me of the period in the late 1960’s when LSU basketball fans showed up hours before men’s games to have the chance to watch and cheer for Pete Maravich.  Pistol Pete helped to transform Louisiana’s football-obsessed university into having a better appreciation and love for the sport of basketball, too.

From 1968-1970, Pistol Pete Maravich became the greatest scorer and one of the top showmen in the history of college basketball.  Playing during the period without a three-point line, Pete Maravich averaged an incredible 44.2 points per game in his three varsity seasons at LSU.  He would have easily averaged more than 50 points per game with today’s three-point line.

In addition to his ability to score baskets with ease, Pete Maravich was an incredible showman with a basketball in his hands.   He looked the part, too.

Pistol Pete Maravich wore a pair of floppy gray socks (for good luck) over his white basketball socks.  His hair was long and straight and bounced up and down as Maravich dribbled down the court.  Pete’s uncanny dribbling and passing skills were legendary, too.  His ability to deliver timely behind-the-back passes to his LSU teammates kept everyone (on the court or in the stands) paying close attention whenever Maravich had the basketball.

The popularity of Pete Maravich during that era at LSU created the momentum to construct a new basketball arena.   Opened in 1972, LSU’s Assembly Center was called “The House that Pete Built”.  The arena was later renamed the Pete Maravich Assembly Center after his tragic death in 1988 at age 40 from a previously undetected heart condition.

For 51 years after the basketball facility’s opening, there was one item noticeably missing from Pistol Pete’s Palace.

During that span, two of LSU’s long-time basketball coaches had enough success that their names now adorn the Tigers’ basketball court.  Though men’s coach Dale Brown and women’s coach Sue Gunter took teams to the NCAA Final Four, neither was able to win a national title for the Bayou Bengals.

That all changed in March, 2023.

There is finally a national championship banner hanging above LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center.  That honor belongs to the 2023 NCAA women’s national championship team coached by Louisiana’s own Kim Mulkey.

From Tickfaw, Louisiana to the Hall-of-Fame

As Pistol Pete Maravich was wowing fans and playing to sellout crowds at LSU’s antiquated John Parker Ag Center arena (jokingly known as “The Cow Palace”) during the late 1960’s, a little girl living in a small town less than an hour away was likely taking notice, too.

Born in 1962, Kim Mulkey was in elementary school when Pistol Pete was playing college ball 40 miles to the west down I-12 at LSU.

Raised in the small community of Tickfaw (near Hammond), Kim Mulkey became good enough at basketball that she played on the boys’ team while in junior high school.  She would later lead the Hammond High School’s girls’ basketball team to a 136-5 record in her four seasons.  Hammond High School won four straight Louisiana state basketball championships, too.

The 5’4” All-American Kim Mulkey headed north to Ruston to play college basketball for the successful Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters basketball program beginning in 1980.  She became the point guard on two national championship teams while at Louisiana Tech.  She won a gold medal as part of the US Olympic team in 1984.

While at Louisiana Tech, Kim Mulkey didn’t initially have her sights on becoming a basketball coach.  She collected an undergraduate degree in business administration and had begun her coursework toward earning a Master’s degree.

One day, Kim Mulkey received a message instructing her to immediately report to the office of the university’s chancellor, F. Jay Taylor.  She had no idea what kind of news to expect from the school’s top official.

When the chancellor called, I literally ran-up all 16 floors to the top of Wily Tower to see what I had done wrong!” said Mulkey.

Instead, the school offered Kim Mulkey a job as a Louisiana Tech assistant basketball coach.  She would assist the new women’s head basketball coach Leon Barmore as he took over the program from Tech’s successful long-time coach, Sonja Hogg.

Kim Mulkey stayed at Louisiana Tech for 15 years as she worked her way up the coaching ladder to become the assistant head coach.  Everyone in north Louisiana figured that she would become the next head coach in Ruston, but that’s where her story takes a turn – to the west.

Baylor bound!

In 2000, Kim Mulkey was offered a chance to rebuild the women’s college basketball program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  The Baylor women’s basketball team had just posted a 7-20 record in the previous season.

The focused and fiery Mulkey immediately turned around the basketball team’s fortunes by posting a 21-9 record in her first season as a college head coach.  She would become the fastest women’s coach to reach 600 career victories during her time in Waco.

Coach Kim Mulkey led Baylor to national titles in 2005, 2012, and 2019 during her 21 years at the Big 12 Conference school.

In 2021, she was offered an opportunity to return to Louisiana by LSU’s new Athletics Director, Scott Woodward.  Kim Mulkey would accept the job and come back to her home state to coach women’s college basketball at LSU.

Though the women’s program had experienced periods of success over recent decades, the LSU Lady Tigers basketball team posted just nine wins in the year prior to Mulkey’s hiring.


During her first two seasons in Baton Rouge, Coach Kim Mulkey’s first two LSU teams won a combined 60 games and lost only eight.  Season two’s national championship team in 2023 finished with a gaudy 34-2 record and earned the school’s first national title in basketball.

Impressively, Kim Mulkey now has a 4-0 record when leading her basketball teams into a national title game (three at Baylor and one at LSU).  That unbeaten coaching record in clutch games is indicative of Kim Mulkey’s ability to motivate her players and push the right coaching buttons when the pressure is at its highest.

In Thursday night’s game in Baton Rouge, Coach Mulkey’s LSU team jumped to an early lead over unbeaten South Carolina.  The crowd roared its approval as the Tigers maintained their lead in the game until the final minutes.  Carolina caught LSU late and then converted a pair of open 3-pointers to leave Baton Rouge with a 76-70 victory.  South Carolina is now 18-0, while LSU’s record dropped to 18-3.

If you think Kim Mulkey was discouraged after the loss, think again.

“That was a good basketball game,” said Coach Mulkey. “There’s a lot of talent on both sides. A possession here, maybe we would have won it. A possession there, maybe we would have won it. They made the plays to win it.”

In the coach’s eyes, her LSU Tigers are still the champs until someone defeats them during this year’s NCAA’s March Madness tournament.

“I think we’re one of the top teams in the country,” said Mulkey. “Losing to South Carolina the way we did sent a message that we’re not going away.”

And now a word from our sponsor…

In addition to being a rather intense coach, Kim Mulkey seems to enjoy displaying her own brand of fashion style while patrolling the sidelines.  Known for her unique clothing line worn to the games, she didn’t disappoint the LSU fans in the PMAC or those watching on national television Thursday night.

Coach Kim Mulkey wore a purple and gold jacket which featured a tiger wearing a large gold crown on its head on the back side of her jacket.

The outfit also featured a rather prominent mention of a corporate sponsor (the world’s leading cola-flavored soft drink maker).  The 13,200 white t-shirts handed-out to the fans in attendance on Thursday night were apparently provided by that same sponsor.

Like their coach, the LSU players have become known for their colorful personas, too.  Some of the women on the basketball team are earning more than $100,000 annually from endorsement deals.

The LSU women’s basketball team has bonded with their growing legion of fans, too.  The players look at themselves as role models for the young girls attending their games.  Win or lose, the LSU women’s team sticks around after every home game to sign autographs for fans.

During the LSU player introductions prior to tip-off, the house lights are dimmed, the music begins to blare, and the players run through the fog machine onto the court to a roaring ovation of Bayou Bengal fans.  It’s the basketball team’s endeavor to emulate LSU’s rousing football pre-game routine.

Just like their coach Kim Mulkey, the LSU Tigers have become women’s college basketball’s “Showtime” team.  A sold-out arena in Baton Rouge has become a common occurrence.

From his own perch high above the Maravich Assembly Center, a guy named Pistol Pete Maravich must have enjoyed watching Thursday night’s basketball game, too.