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Mulkey-Robertson leads Baylor to top

Posted: Tuesday April 5, 2005 11:20PM; Updated: Tuesday April 5, 2005 11:40PM
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Baylor beats MSU
Just five years ago, Mulkey-Robertson inherited a program in the Big 12's sub-basement.
AP
Final Four
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- As she walked toward her bench before tipoff, Kim Mulkey-Robertson, forever the fiery little point guard, clenched her fist and saluted thousands of Baylor's adoring fans.

Their coach was ready, and so were their Lady Bears.

Twisting and turning with every shot on the sideline from start to finish while wearing an aqua-blue -- or was that Lady Techster blue? -- suit on Tuesday night, Mulkey-Robertson, who five years ago inherited a program in the Big 12's sub-basement, brought Baylor all the way to the top of women's college basketball.

After the Lady Bears' the 84-62 title game win over Michigan State, Mulkey-Robertson said it was the small victories along the way that added up to greatness -- like Baylor's first winning season and first upset of a ranked opponent."

"When you're building a program, you got to take the little things and make them monumental, and that's what we've been able to do."

In winning Baylor's first national title, Mulkey-Robertson, who won two national titles at Louisiana Tech in the 1980s, became the first woman to win a national championship as a player and head coach. On the men's side, Bob Knight and Dean Smith are the only ones to accomplish the rare double-double.

And at the rate Mulkey-Robertson is going, she just might do it again.

In the closing seconds of Tuesday night's game, Mulkey-Robertson replaced some of her starters, greeting each with a warm embrace before giving them a swat on the backside.

That's her to a tee, loving and forceful, the demanding mother who refuses to let her kids settle for second-best.

When the final horn sounded, Mulkey-Robertson blinked back tears as her children, 13-year-old Makenzie and 11-year-old Kramer, rushed into their mom's arms to celebrate a victory no one in college basketball could have predicted at the beginning of the season.

But with their coach, who starred at Louisiana Tech leading the way, the Lady Bears forced their way through their conference and then through the tournament, winning 20 straight games to end the season.

"It's not the coaching, it's these guys taking me for a tremendous ride," said Mulkey-Robertson.

When she took over at Baylor on April 4, 2000, Mulkey-Robertson had very little to work with. The Lady Bears had gone 7-20 the previous year, winning just two conference games. But almost five years to the day that she started, Mulkey-Robertson has Baylor looking down on the rest of the nation.

Mulkey-Robertson did it the way she knows best: by outworking others. She pounded the recruiting roads down in Texas, landing some of the state's top high school talent. She also got lucky, finding a few diamonds in the rough. She stumbled upon Sophia Young, a foreign-exchange student from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and Abiola Wabara, who lived in Nigeria and Italy.

But in Waco, Texas, Mulkey-Robertson she got her team to mesh, building the Lady Bears in her image: tough-nosed, demanding and driven. After all, this is a woman who by the age of 42 has been enshrined in six Halls of Fame, won two national titles and had a street named in her honor.

Although she's tiny in stature, the 5-foot-4 Mulkey-Robertson has never been afraid of taking on the big girls. And now, she's got a whole team of them.

"Wow," she said. "We're national champions!"

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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