In July 2003 Carlton Dotson was charged with the shooting death of his friend and teammate Dennehy. On Aug. 8 coach Dave Bliss resigned after secretly recorded tapes revealed that he had tried to portray Dennehy as a drug dealer to cover up NCAA violations. Athletic director Tom Stanton stepped down the same day. People who had never heard of Baylor now associated the university with the most heinous of crimes. "It impacted this whole school and all our athletic and academic programs," says Mulkey-Robertson. "I think we didn't even get in the door with some high school players."
Challenged by Mulkey-Robertson to be "the shining light" of the athletic department, the Lady Bears went 26-9 last season and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. "When I first got here, the morale was really low," says athletic director Ian McCaw, who replaced Stanton a month after he resigned. "People felt betrayed. The success of Kim's program really helped the healing process."
One hesitates to use the term cult figure in Waco, but that is, in a sense, what Mulkey-Robertson has become. Her popularity--generated by her team's success, her honest, plainspoken style and a busy, far-flung speaking schedule--extends beyond the Baylor community and well into central Texas. "You hear things now like, 'I'm an Aggie, but I root for Kim,'" says former Baylor mathematics professor Pat Hickey, who has seen the ranks of the Tip-Off booster club she belongs to swell from about 200 five years ago to 460 this year. Even undergrads, who are typically a hard sell for women's basketball teams, have embraced the Lady Bears. Fourteen hundred students, many of them wearing gold got mulk? T-shirts, showed up for the Texas Tech game. As he picked his way through the icy, confetti-strewn mess on the floor afterward, Baylor sophomore Andrew McAdams tried to sum up Mulkey-Robertson's appeal. "Everybody loves Kim," he said. "She is a goddess. Yet she's so tough, she eats nails."
Even her players might argue that last point, but there's no question the coach and her Lady Bears are hungry. "There's so much to do here," says Scott. "Every time we accomplish something we set a record or we do it for the first time. That's fun. That's a feeling you want to keep experiencing. You want to shout to everyone, 'You like what we just did? Watch what we do next!'"