|How Sweet is This for Men and Women?|
6:55 P.M., MONDAY, March 22, 2010
When games are played tonight, the number could dwindle down even farther. But as we go into today's second-round games in the NCAA Women's Tournament, there are only eight schools that have both the men's and women's teams still alive.
And when you consider who else is in there, Baylor's riding in pretty good company. Joining Baylor in the double dip are Duke, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio State, West Virginia, Michigan State and Xavier. Outside of maybe North Carolina, UCLA and Connecticut, I think you could argue that's an Elite Eight that represents some of the most tradition-rich basketball schools in the country.
As women's coach Kim Mulkey says: "This is why you came to Baylor!"
Just think about what next weekend could do for Baylor's image on a national and even world-wide level. If the women win tonight against fifth-seeded Georgetown and join the Baylor men in the Sweet 16, there's the possibility of a Baylor team playing on national TV for four straight days.
Tip-off for the men's Sweet 16 matchup against 10th-seeded Saint Mary's has already been set for 6:27 p.m. Friday at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. On the women's side, the fourth-seeded Lady Bears would be in Memphis, Tenn., for a regional that includes top-seeded Tennessee, No. 2 Duke and No. 3 West Virginia.
How fun is this!
Not Just California Dreamin' for Baylor Tennis
7:35 P.M., THURSDAY, March 11, 2010
California's one of those spring-break destination points that anyone could appreciate. But it was especially appealing for the Baylor men's and women's tennis teams.
One day after the ninth-ranked women pulled off the biggest regular-season win in program history, knocking off No. 2 UCLA, 4-3, on the Bruins' home courts, the 16th-ranked Baylor men rallied to beat No. 8 UCLA, 4-3, on Thursday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
Sophomore Julian Bley, who wasn't even in the singles lineup when the dual-match season started this spring, ran his record to 6-0 with an impressive 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over the Bruins' Max Tabatruong for the clincher at the No. 6 spot.
After losing the doubles point, just like the women the day before, the Bears (11-2) had to win four of the six singles to win the match. And they seized the momentum by winning the first set at five spots.
Senior All-American Denes Lukacs knotted the match with a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 1 over 40th-ranked Haythem Abid, but Amit Inbar got the lead back for the Bruins with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Baylor freshman Roberto Maytin at No. 5.
Dominik Mueller and Jordan Rux finished off straight-set wins to put the Bears on the brink, and then Bley clinched it by holding on for a 6-4 win in the third set after jumping out to a 5-0 lead.
Coupled with the Lady Bears' 5-2 win at USC, the Baylor tennis programs can finish off an undefeated California swing when the men face 24th-ranked Pepperdine at 4 p.m. CST Saturday in Malibu.
Now that's a spring break to remember!
Mulkey's Decisions Not 'All About Winning'
1:05 P.M., SATURDAY, March 6, 2010
"Those of you who have been here know that my decisions have never been about winning."
As Baylor coach Kim Mulkey voiced those words at Friday's press conference, I glanced around the room and took a mental note that "those of you who have been here" would be a short list that includes women's basketball media relations director Julie Bennett, radio analyst Lori Fogleman and myself.
Best I could tell, we were the only ones in the room that had been there since the day Mulkey was hired off Louisiana Tech's staff to become Baylor's head coach on April 4, 2000.
And speaking for those of us who have been here, I would certainly second Mulkey's assessment. I'm not sure that I've ever known anyone as driven to win and more competitive than Kim, but she has definitely made some decisions in her 10 years as Baylor's head coach that belie that.
Trying to go back and piece together some of those decisions, the one that probably sticks out the most is when she dismissed starting point guard Ebony Jackson from the team halfway through the 2003-04 season. She had started 29 games in 1 ½ seasons and was averaging 6.3 points and 3.4 assists for a team that was ranked 16th in the nation at the time.
"I've been through it all. I've had to make tough decisions," Mulkey said. "I've had to dismiss a point guard for continually missing class. I've suspended players for continually back-talking tutors. Look, when you sit in a head coach's seat, the decisions you make are not always going to be easy."
And I'm sure it wasn't easy for her to tack on another game to the automatic one-game suspension that 6-foot-8 freshman Brittney Griner had to serve for her "fighting act" in Wednesday's 69-60 win at Texas Tech.
If it was all about winning, she would have tried to fight the suspension instead of expand it. But ultimately, "It's about a young person's life and doing right by that young person and my basketball team."
It wasn't easy for her to dismiss guards Monique Jones and Latara Darrett from the team, either. Jones was part of the 2005 national championship team, while Darrett would be a senior for this year's team and certainly would have made a difference.
But as she said when Jones was dismissed: "Student-athletes on the Lady Bear basketball team are held to the highest level of accountability and must face the consequences of their actions."
In less severe moves, Mulkey also suspended Steffanie Blackmon and Jessica Morrow for games and just this year suspended freshman guard Kimetria "Nae-Nae" Hayden before the Big 12 Conference opener at Oklahoma State. And remember, she was already down a player with Melissa Jones out with a stress reaction in her right leg.
If it was "all about winning," Hayden would have made the trip to Stillwater, Okla. And if it was all about winning, Brittney Griner would be suited up and playing in next week's Big 12 Championship opener in Kansas City, Mo.
But as Mulkey's record clearly states: it's about much more.
"We are hit with things as coaches that we have to deal with," she said. "And it's our job to lead, guide and direct them, and not worry about a basketball game. Look, we're going to the NCAA Tournament. So it's not about basketball. It's about doing your homework as a head coach and doing right by that young person. Because when she leaves me in four or five years, it's her job to go survive in the real world. And that's what my decision will always be based upon."