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  • Baylor's coach explains what it took for the Lady Bears to win the 2019 national championship and how it compared with the program's two other titles.
By Kim Mulkey
April 18, 2019

This story appears in the April 22–29, 2019, issue of Sports Illustrated. For more great storytelling and in-depth analysis, subscribe to the magazine—and get up to 94% off the cover price. Click here for more.

When I played for Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s, I can remember that there was only one women's basketball game on television, and that was the national championship. Now you can turn on the television every night and find a game. The women's game today has a three-point line, the 30-second clock and a lot more players to choose from. But really, the basketball is the same. It is about team first, defense and working together on the offensive end. And that was our team this year.

The only way I can describe them is with the word chemistry. It was just a fun team to be around. You can coach a lifetime and try to create that kind of chemistry. But when you have the right kids in the locker room, they do it themselves. And this team did.

It's easy to say you like a team when you win a national championship. But I truly enjoyed this team along the way. They were fun kids, and we had laughable moments in the locker room and during pregame meals, on the bus, on the plane and in film sessions. They had happiness. They pushed each other, they cheered for each other and they communicated with each other. They enjoyed each other's successes. And when they experienced failure, they picked each other up.

People called us "old school" this year. I don't know if they mean the style of offense we run or the defense we played. Nobody wants to play defense anymore. It's all about offense now. I don't take "old school" as an insult. I just know how to win, and how can you argue with winning?

We are in a society now, especially in sports, where it is all about me, me, me. How many points can I get? What are my stats? We have become lazy as recruiters and as scouts. We get so caught up in, What are they averaging? I have four or five players who could go other places and have those stats. But they want to win championships. I recruited kids and families who would buy in to the idea that there is no greater feeling than to win a championship in your conference and to win a national championship. They are not selfish. They just want to win.

I have been blessed in my career. Blessed to be surrounded by great coaches in college and great teammates who made me look better. I have been blessed as an assistant coach to learn from the greatest in the business in Leon Barmore, my head coach and former boss at Louisiana Tech. I have been blessed at Baylor, a university that values women's basketball and blessed to surround myself with great assistants and recruit great players. That is why we have been able to win.

But I really can't compare our three title teams. The 2005 team was just totally unexpected. You couldn't compare that team with others as far as talent. We were only five years into my tenure at Baylor. For the 2012 team, that title was expected. We were the first team to finish 40–0. To do that—even though it was expected—was truly remarkable. We just had unbelievable talent on that team.

For the 2019 team, I don't think it was unexpected. But there is so much parity in the women's game now. Are we really the best in the country? That question was out there all year. Even when we were selected as the overall No. 1 seed, we weren't picked to win by many people. After going through the tournament, seeing the scores of our games, in my opinion we were the best team. Even though one of our best players, Lauren Cox, went out in the title game with a knee injury, we still gutted it out. That speaks volumes for the character and determination of Cox's teammates, and of Cox herself, who returned to the bench to cheer her team on to a championship.

And we played against the defending national champions in Notre Dame, a team that had all five starters drafted into the WNBA. We just did what we had been doing all year. Through the course of the season we saw a lot of different defenses, a lot of great players and great teams. But we just kept winning.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)