Kim Mulkey, who coached Brittney Griner for four years at Baylor University, is facing criticism for her refusal to comment on her former player’s detention in Russia at a media conference earlier this week.
A reporter started to ask Mulkey, “I just want your thoughts on the Brittney Griner situation. I don’t think I’ve seen anything from you on that,” but was cut off by the now Louisiana State University coach’s abrupt response, “and you do not want to.”
Many have been outraged by Mulkey’s apparent lack of sympathy for the professional basketball star’s plight.
Former Baylor center Queen Egbo tweeted: “A player who built Baylor, 2 national titles and a 40-0 record. Yet her former coach refuses to say anything or show any support. Keep that in mind when choosing a school .”
Egbo’s former Baylor teammate Chloe Jackson also tweeted: “And I’ll say it again. SILENCE SPEAKS BOLD, smh.”
While Mulkey has been pretty quiet publicly about her former player, she did talk about Griner when she was on Tiger Rag Radio in June.
“I keep up with it, as you do, as far as what’s in the national media,” Mulkey said. “I’m not going to make public comments about it. I think it’s a personal issue that you just want everyone to get home safely.
“I’m praying for Brittney. I want her home safe. I think there’s a lot of people speaking up for her, and those of us who don’t necessarily speak publicly about it are definitely praying for her.”
Griner and Mulkey had incredible success with each other at Baylor University. That included a 40-0 season in Griner’s junior year, in which she was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player, as well as earning AP Player of the Year and Wade Trophy Player of the Year.
In his four years at Baylor, Griner led the team to 131 wins, four Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights, two Final Fours and a national title. Griner broke the NCAA record for blocks, earned the Top Athlete Rank and sealed his place as arguably the greatest player in college history.
In 2013, Griner came out as a lesbian and said Baylor wanted her to keep quiet about it.
“It was a recruiting thing,” Griner said in an interview with ESPN. “The coaches felt that if it seemed like they were condoning it, people wouldn’t let their kids come and play for Baylor.”
Griner later said in her autobiography that her criticism was not directed at Mulkey, but rather at the general culture at Baylor University.
Baylor is a private Baptist university in Waco, Texas, which has a policy in its student handbook that says sex should be limited to heterosexual marriages.
In his autobiography, Griner wrote about his conflicted relationship with the university.
She wrote, “I would love to be an ambassador for Baylor to show my school pride, but it’s hard to do… I’ve spent too much of my life feeling like there’s something wrong with me.
“And no matter how much support I felt as a basketball player at Baylor, it still doesn’t take away all the pain I felt there.”
Current Baylor head coach Nicki Collen was also asked about Griner’s situation this week.
“Knowing BG, knowing her, being around her, she’s a big kid,” Collen said. “To know her is to love her. I mean, honestly, she’s just one of those people who radiates joy.
“I think BG is first and foremost a human being first. I think it’s a human rights issue. Nobody’s saying she didn’t make a mistake. None of us are perfect.
“But I guess if I did something and got stuck in a foreign country, I’d like to know what it was, what it wasn’t.
“I think we all know that 10 years is a long time. I see her as a mother, as a sister, as a spouse, as a daughter, as an incredible ambassador for the game of basketball.”
Griner faces nine years in prison after being arrested for possession of cannabis oil in February. Her lawyers have appealed the ruling, and President Joe Biden is working on a potential prisoner swap with Russia for Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.
Baylor did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.