L.S.U.’s Kim Mulkey Courts Controversy With Style

The smog of a Washington Post exposé may have been hanging over Kim Mulkey’s head during the L.S.U. game on Saturday afternoon, but the highest paid coach in women’s collegiate basketball wasn’t going to hide. How could you tell?

Well, in part because at the start of the N.C.A.A. tournament, she had given a news conference threatening a lawsuit about the article, thus calling to attention to it. In part because there she was, running up and down the sidelines and screaming her head off. And it part because … goodness, what was she wearing?

A gleaming pantsuit covered in a jumble of Op Art sequined squiggles, as if Big Bird had met Liberace and they’d teamed up for “Project Runway.”

Ms. Mulkey, resplendent in sequins at the L.S.U. Sweet Sixteen game on March 30.Credit…Gregory Fisher/USA Today, via Reuters

Even in the context of basketball, a sport in which players and coaches understood the power of personal branding through clothes long before almost any other athletes, Ms. Mulkey stands out. More than perhaps anyone else in the league — possibly in all of women’s basketball — she has made her image a talking point, a reflection of her own larger-than-life personality and a tool to draw attention to her sport. She is basketball’s avatar of the Trumpian era, offering a new version of The Mulkey Show at every game and costuming herself for the moment. As her team meets the University of Iowa again in the Elite Eight, brand Mulkey will most likely be raising the stakes once more.

It would be wrong to call her clothes “fashion.” They have little to do with trends or silhouette. But love what she wears or hate it, love how she behaves or hate it, her sometimes ridiculous, always eye-catching outfits are, like her winning record, abrasive personality and problematic comments, impossible to ignore.

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