Brittney Griner and former coach Mulkey mum since Russia prisoner swap

Mar 31, 2023, 6:30 PM

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey embraces Brittney Griner (42) as Griner leaves the game late in the se...

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey embraces Brittney Griner (42) as Griner leaves the game late in the second half of a second-round game against Florida State in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

LSU coach Kim Mulkey has not spoken to Brittney Griner since the former Baylor star was freed from a Russian prison and returned to the U.S., but Mulkey did have a message for her ex-player.

“I’m glad she’s back,” Mulkey said at her Final Four news conference Thursday, a day before the Tigers’ meeting with Virginia Tech in the national semifinals. “I’m glad she’s safe, she’s sound. I think everybody is.”

Mulkey was criticized in September for not offering any words of support or encouragement for Griner, the three-time All-American and WNBA star who was arrested in February 2022 in Russia on drug-related charges and was later convicted and sentenced to nine years in a Russian jail.

“And you won’t,” Mulkey interrupted in the fall when asked for a reaction to Griner’s situation by a reporter who suggested the coach hadn’t weighed in.

After Griner’s release in December in a dramatic prisoner swap with Russia, Mulkey issued a statement through ESPN expressing relief over the news.

Baylor was the first 40-0 national champion when Griner was a junior in 2012. The Bears lost in the regional finals a year later. Baylor also made the Final Four when Griner was a freshman.

After her Baylor career, Griner came out. Days after she was the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick by Phoenix in 2013, Griner criticized Mulkey, saying her former coach forced her to keep her sexual orientation private because it could hurt recruiting at the private Baptist university.

Griner has said she plans to resume her career with the Mercury; she missed last season while imprisoned in Russia.

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