BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU's national championship women's basketball team returned to campus on Monday where thousands of fans gathered to welcome them back.
“Timing is everything in our lives,” LSU coach and Louisiana native Kim Mulkey told the cheering crowd. “It was time for me to come home.”
Mulkey and and her players, including star forward Angel Reese and standout guard Alexis Morris, climbed onto a metal stage inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, holding aloft the NCAA national championship trophy they captured with a 102-85 triumph over Iowa in Dallas on Sunday.
The championship was LSU's first in either women's or men's basketball. It was Mulkey’s fourth national championship as a coach. She won three at Baylor University before agreeing two years ago to move to LSU. Mulkey, 60, also won a national title as a player at Louisiana Tech.
Mulkey gestured upward toward hanging banners from LSU's appearances in five straight women's Final Fours from 2004 through 2008.
“Do you understand how hard it is to do that?” Mulkey said. “And I was bold enough and confident enough to say that's not what I came home to do. I came home to put a championship banner up there."
“I am blessed that I had the opportunity to come back home," Mulkey added. "I am blessed that these young ladies chose to come play for us.”
After brief remarks, players mingled with fans in the arena and posed for photos.
Those in attendance included LSU president William F Tate IV, who commented on criticism Reese received for a late-game gesture directed at Iowa star Caitlyn Clark.
While looking at Clark, Reese mockingly waved her hand in front of her face, the way Clark had done in celebration earlier in the NCAA tournament. Reese also pointed at the finger where her forthcoming championship would go.
The moment sparked debate on social media among those defending Reese's right to engage in a type of mental gamesmanship and trash talk that is common in basketball, and those who found her conduct unsportsmanlike.
“A lot of people commenting never played sports,” Tate asserted. “You create slights. You create people dissing you so that you can go out there and be motivated to come after them."
“And by the way, this is LSU,” he continued. “This is swag country. This is what we do here.”
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