“I’m going to protect my players,” LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey told reporters Monday. “Always. They matter more. It feels like family.”
Standard coachspeak and a good principle. It's unclear how Mulkey has publicly supported Angel Reese lately. The coach is not required to explain her top player's absence.
Mulkey and LSU have allowed speculation to run wild by not revealing any facts regarding the problem, such as whether it is a personal concern or a suspension. Taking that approach has only raised awareness. Reese appears unprotected.
Reese was benched in LSU's second half triumph over Kent State last Tuesday and hasn't played since. The junior forward led the program to its first title last spring and rose to national prominence.
Her absence would have been noticeable, especially during a noncompetitive nonconference stretch. However, how a program announces—or doesn't—an absence can affect the topic.
Mulkey delivered a similar statement after both LSU games sans Reese, which didn't answer much.
“Angel was not in uniform tonight,” stated the seasoned coach. “Angel is on this basketball team and will return soon.”
That short phrase could have covered everything. Personal, disciplinary, physical, or something else. It could be one night or one month. Repeat: Mulkey, Reese, and LSU owe no specific information here.
But if the program perceived this as an internal problem it wanted to keep hidden, such ambiguous wording didn't help. It fueled rumors.