Louisiana State University Coach Kim Mulkey listens to a question from the media after LSU beat Ole Miss 75-67 at the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament game at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. Saturday, March 9, 2024 Credit: The Greenville News

There are few things left on X (Twitter) to enjoy but one of them, for me, remains the way that @heyitschili deploys “Folks, we got him” every time there’s bad news for Donald Trump.

It simultaneously taps into so many things that encapsulate the world we’ve been living in for the last eight years. The desperate when-will-it-finally-happen desire to see the former President finally face something resembling genuine consequences. The ember of hope that THIS TIME will finally be the domino that ends his nightmare. The seemingly never-ending parade of crimes and misdemeanors that inspire so much schadenfreude you could power an island country with it. And the darkly true realization that, no matter how bad this latest bit of trouble might sound, you know in your heart it’s not gonna lead to anything because that’s not how the world works and we’ll just be back here next week when the 412th shoe drops. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I think that’s how many people felt Saturday morning when The Washington Post finally published Kent Babb’s profile on LSU Tigers coach Kim Mulkey. Two years in the making, and coming on the heels of Mulkey’s Streisand-effecting press conference last weekend in which she pre-emptively referred to it as a “hit piece,” there was a presumptive expectation that it was going to single-handily take down a tyrant over yet-to-be-revealed transgressions too horrible to ignore.

In reality, Babb’s profile was less a “hit piece” than a warts-and-all profile of a prolific and flawed human being. No less important and well-written, just not the “Folks, we got her” that some people were hoping for.

If you’ve read much of Babb’s other work around college athletics, you’d have known that was always what it was going to be. His January 2022 piece about income inequality around Baton Rouge, which Mulkey referred to as a “hit job” on Brian Kelly, was anything but. Yes, it used Kelly as an example to make a larger point, but it was not mean-spirited or some kind of hard-hitting expose about the seedy underbelly of LSU football. It was about the community, its people, and the role that college sports play in how those stories unfold.

Putting the expectations aside, there’s a fascinating takeaway that comes with reading Babb’s profile: Mulkey’s pre-emptive strike essentially proved the entire conceit.

Yes, the profile does have some sharp corners that don’t reflect well on her. Mulkey does not come off as someone who’ll be honored by GLAAD anytime soon. In a world that knows the exploits of Bobby Knight, her treatment of players may not be shocking, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t walk the line of abuse, especially when you consider the power dynamic.

The overarching spine of the piece is about the way Mulkey views relationships. Specifically, her inflexibility for anything other than 100% loyalty and the depths to which she will hold a grudge over any criticism or breach of faith. It goes a long way to explain why she handled the Brittney Griner-Russia situation the way she did. And the anecdotes about her relationships with her father and sister, neither of whom she speaks with, were particularly heart-breaking, whatever you think of her.

“He was cocky, he says. Stubborn. A little too proud, he says, so when his time comes, Les figures it will be when he’s alone, surrounded by achievements but not people, wasting away like the things he once built,” writes Babb about Mulkey’s father. It’s hard not to read that as a looming threat that the generationally good basketball coach will not heed until it’s too late. What good are all those trophies if you have no one to share them with?

All of which brings us back to last Saturday when Kim Mulkey launched her threat of legal action against the Post and Babb for digging into her past and seeing what they could dredge up. In the end, they dredged up a very human story about determination, desire, the costs that come with greatness, and the potential prices left to pay for living a life the way Kim Mulkey does.

Mulkey called Babb “sleazy” for trying to tell the full story of who she is. What he ended up doing was presenting her as a full human being. Some will come away from it reinforcing their disdain for her. Others might come away understanding why she is the way she is and offering her some sympathy and grace, even though she doesn’t seem interested in doing the same.

That was Babb’s greatest crime, in the eyes of Kim Mulkey. He tried to peek under the armor. He tried to show people what makes someone act how she acts and say what she says. He humanized her.

The way she reacted to the mere thought of that confirmed everything he wrote before it was ever published.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.