Mulkey's hiring mantra: 'Best person for job'

TAMPA, Fla. -- Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey on Saturday said she empathized with and supported what Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said earlier this week about the need for more opportunities for women in coaching.

Mulkey, however, added her own nuance to the discussion.

"I understand her points, without a doubt," Mulkey said Saturday, as the coaches in Sunday's national championship game addressed the media. "But I'm of the belief, I want the best person for the job. I have a son, and I would be honored if my son wanted to coach next to me.

"[McGraw] has a son. I think she would be honored if he wanted to coach women's basketball. So I tend to stay away from saying the word 'never.' Bringing attention to what needs to be fixed, but don't give an absolute answer. Because I don't want to hire somebody just to be hiring them. I want to hire somebody that can help us be successful."

For her part, McGraw clarified she wasn't opposed to men being hired in women's basketball as a general concept, but she said there has to be a spotlight on the large disparity in basketball coaching opportunities for women across the board.

McGraw's assistant coaches are all women, and those are jobs, she says, that she prefers to have women fill. Especially since those coaching positions really have not been made available to women in men's basketball.

"I just hired a male video coordinator. I have just hired a male strength coach. I'm not opposed to hiring men," McGraw said. "I just think that women need opportunities, and those opportunities right now are going to men.

"We keep looking at ways to get our young graduates and alums into the game. There's no room for them in the game. Women are leaving the game because of the lack of a work-life balance. I think we can do a lot more to promote women as coaches. I think that's really important, particularly when you have a male head coach."

To that end, McGraw complimented UConn's Geno Auriemma, whose Huskies lost to Notre Dame in Friday's national semifinals.

"I think Geno has done a great job," McGraw said. "He always has an all-female staff. I think that's a great way to bring more women into the game.

"I think we definitely need more women athletic directors, people doing the hiring. Head coaches are doing the hiring of their staffs. When you look and see more men than women on a woman's staff, I think that's not the optics that I would like to see."

When McGraw's and Mulkey's teams meet in Sunday's NCAA final, it will be the first time since 2012 -- when it was the same two coaches and programs -- that the championship game will feature two women coaches.

Overall, since the NCAA tournament began for women in 1982, this will be the 13th title game in which both teams' head coaches are women. That doesn't include 1983, when Southern Cal was coached by Linda Sharp and Louisiana Tech had co-head coaches Sonja Hogg and Leon Barmore.

There have been four title games in which both head coaches were men.

Mulkey, a player for that 1983 Louisiana Tech team, has had a male assistant in Bill Brock for 16 of her 19 seasons at Baylor.

"As a female and a mother of a son and a daughter, I'm very careful, you know, saying 'never,'" Mulkey said. "But I do understand what [McGraw] is saying. Statistics are glaring."