Brittney Griner’s jersey retirement: Will former Baylor coach Kim Mulkey attend event honoring Bears legend?

After more than a decade away, Brittney Griner finally makes her return to Waco.

The Mercury center sparkled in Baylor colors, leading the Bears to the 2012 national title while capturing more than a dozen individual honors for Kim Mulkey’s side. Griner is among the most prolific scorers in college basketball history. Couple that with a highlight tape littered with rim-rattling jams and eye-catching blocks, and it’s little surprise why Griner’s collegiate career is finally receiving its fair due.

Griner is a college basketball legend. So is her former coach, current LSU boss Kim Mulkey. The two were a formidable tandem during their time at Baylor, winning 135 of their 150 contests as battery mates.

With all the success the duo achieved during their time under the Texas sun, conventional wisdom indicates Mulkey should be right by Griner’s side when her kit is thrust into the rafters. Yet when it comes to Mulkey, conventionality rarely comes to mind.

Griner and Mulkey’s relationship has been fraught with potholes. As such, it has folks wondering just whether the Tigers coach will be in attendance when Griner’s number is lifted to the heavens.

MORE: Why did Baylor wait so long to retire No. 42 for Brittney Griner?

Here’s are the latest updates on Mulkey’s status going forward as Griner prepares to bask in the glow of her college accomplishments.

Will Kim Mulkey be at Brittney Griner’s jersey retirement at Baylor?

It’s unclear whether Mulkey will be at Griner’s retirement ceremony. She did, however, tell reporters that she expects the atmosphere to be bumping when Griner makes her homecoming.

“That’s awesome,” Mulkey said Thursday. “I bet it’ll be a great environment.”

That’s not quite a ringing endorsement, admittedly. But it’s also not an outright rejection, either.

Mulkey and Griner’s working relationship proved extremely prosperous. But off the floor, things proved a little more fractious.

Mulkey reportedly didn’t cultivate an environment where Griner — who is gay — was discouraged from coming out.

“I already knew the answer,” Griner told ESPN’s Kate Fagan in 2013. “I didn’t want to hear ‘No.’ It was a recruiting thing. The coaches thought if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids play for Baylor.”

Griner said she never explicitly asked Mulkey about coming out. Griner added she wasn’t “fully happy” at Baylor because she couldn’t be herself.

“When I was at Baylor, I wasn’t fully happy because I couldn’t be all the way out,” Griner told ESPN. “It feels so good saying it: I am a strong, Black lesbian woman. Every single time I say it, I feel so much better.”

Mulkey added fuel to the fire by giving little more than a vague statement acknowledging Griner’s accomplishments as a member of the Bears when it went public that she was being formally recognized as one of Baylor’s greatest athletes.

“Brittney Griner represented Baylor University proudly on and off the basketball court, and she leaves behind an incredible legacy. I cannot comment on personal matters surrounding any of our student-athletes, but I can tell you Brittney will always be a celebrated member of the Baylor family.”

Compare that to the statement released by Nicki Collen, Baylor’s current head coach who advocated heavily for Griner’s jersey retirement:

“I have been saying this since I arrived at Baylor that she deserves to have her jersey retired, and I wanted to make sure that happened when the timing was right,” Collen said in a statement. “With the opening of Foster Pavilion and the WNBA offseason fitting into our season, this seemed like the right time to honor Brittney and welcome her back home. 

It remains to be seen whether Mulkey will be in the stands come February 18 — the day of Griner’s jersey retirement.

For what it’s worth, the Tigers will be in College Station for a clash with Texas A&M on Monday night. So, if Mulkey does want to make an appearance, it wouldn’t be the most trying journey — Waco is only an hour and a half long car ride from Texas A&M’s campus.

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