When he first arrived at LSU, athletics director Scott Woodward already had a reputation for making elite coaching hires.
In his previous stops at Washington and Texas A&M, he had managed to lure multiple marquee names away from other major schools and to his universities.
It took two years for that skill to get some use in Baton Rouge, but when the time finally came, Woodward didn’t disappoint.
His first big splash hire came in April, when he landed Kim Mulkey, the former Baylor women’s basketball coach who has earned just about every accolade a college coach can achieve.
The Tickfaw native—who spent her playing career at Louisiana Tech—won three NCAA Tournament titles with the Bears, was a three-time national coach of the year, a seven-time conference coach of the year, and made it to the Big Dance in all but one of her 21 seasons in Waco, Texas.
The allure of coming home always sat in the back of Mulkey’s mind, but Woodward managed to get her there. And even though her time back in the Boot so far has been short, she’s already managed to get right back to living (and eating) like a local.
“Strawberries, crawfish, Barq’s Root Beer in a bottle, roast beef po-boys,” Mulkey tells 225. She’s sitting in her temporary office in late June, as the new one gets renovated. Her smile grows wider as she begins running through all the foods she had missed the most. “I can’t get enough. I guess being away for as long as I’ve been—I feel like I’m over-indulging. It’s just so good.”
Mulkey’s short-term office isn’t decorated with much more than a cardboard cutout of her son, Kramer Robertson, who played baseball at LSU from 2014 to 2017. She attended as many games as a D1 basketball coach could during those years—in case you missed the TV cameras focusing on her—and still tries to catch him in action in the minor leagues when she can.
Robertson was one of the first things Mulkey mentioned in her opening press conference at LSU as she thanked Paul Mainieri for “(taking) a cocky little boy and (making) him a man.”
Little did most people know, Mainieri was just a few weeks away from announcing his retirement, meaning Woodward would be called upon again to make an important hire.
Woodward answered the call by hiring Pac-12 Coach of the Year Jay Johnson to take over the baseball program.
Johnson has become known for reigniting the baseball teams he takes over, making history at both Nevada and Arizona.
He helped lead the Wolfpack to their first-ever Mountain West Title in 2015, compiling 41 wins in the process, which is the second-most in program history. With the Wildcats, he became the first coach in school history to have led his team to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first two seasons as head coach.
And he’s looking to continue that sort of success in Baton Rouge with an LSU program built on an already rich history on the diamond.
“I am really excited to put in our system relative to program development and player development with this group of players,” Johnson tells 225 in an exclusive interview. “I think we can have some positive outcomes from that at the outset. I’m excited about the players, and I’m excited about their talent. It’s our job to get to work and help that talent become skill and let the results go from there.”
Add those two fresh faces to the slew of new football hires made by Ed Orgeron, the recent success Will Wade has had with the basketball program and the new season of gymnastics under Jay Clark—just to name a few—and it feels like a new era, of sorts, is beginning in the LSU Athletics department.