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LSU head coach Kim Mulkey reacts during the second quarter of a Sweet Sixteen round college basketball game against UCLA during the NCAA Tournament on March 30 in Albany, N.Y.Hans Pennink/The Associated Press

The day of the sportswriting event has ended. The pros have figured out that they don’t need to give their stories to someone else in order for them to be told.

When big news breaks now, it tends to arrive via prime-time interview or podcast. In both cases, the subject can control – or, better still, monetize – the reveal.

That’s what made the weekend’s Washington Post profile of LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey unusual – it was an event. Even if you don’t know Mulkey or her story or care about college sport, it was something people wanted to talk about.

That was all thanks to Mulkey, 61. A week before the profile published, she announced that the Post was planning a “hit piece” on her, and threatened to sue.

Years ago, a lawyer at a place I was working asked me how many times I’d been sued over something I’d published.

“None,” I said.

“Oh,” he said. “I guess you aren’t trying very hard.”

Which is to say, publications love it when someone publicly threatens them over something nobody’s read yet. The only way to hurt them more would be renting out billboards that say, ‘DON’T MISS THIS.’

Mulkey is not exactly a public mystery. She’s a shouty alpha presence known for her sideline outfits, which land somewhere between Solid Gold Dancer and Vegas bachelorette party.

She’s brilliant at her work (four national championships), preening, full of unpopular opinions and a little scary. Exactly the sort of person you want to profile.

The art of the sports profile has changed. Originally, they were hagiography. Find one telling detail and amplify it until the profilee becomes a transcendent example of hard work and decency.

Sports Illustrated introduced psychology into the mix. Spend enough time with anyone and their inner turmoil begins leaking to the surface. Tap into that to show how this physical or tactical genius has mastered his (always his) inner darkness. Still, the idea was to valorize the hero.

Working at the highest levels in the best outlets, the new profiling mode is ‘this but that.’ Sure, the champ has done this amazing sports thing, but there’s also that other thing he did that was not so nice. Maybe he was cruel in high school or wrote something terrible online when he was in college.

This appeals to our modern paranoia of institutions. If you have risen to the top of one, you must have stepped on many heads to get there. The higher the rise, the more profound the suspected compromise.

An inability to discover this compromise suggests that the serious journalist is either a) a shill or b) bad at their job.

This presumed compromise precedes the idea of the profile. No paper will devote 7,000 words to telling you how the general manager is fun to be around and well-liked by colleagues.

The Post’s Mulkey piece is a textbook example of the modern standard. It’s not a hit piece, but it throws multiple shots. Mulkey is a portrayed as a distant and uncompromising taskmaster who shows little interest in her charges outside what they’re capable of on the court.

Among other things, she is accused of being insufficiently caring, especially of those athletes who are LGBTQ. It’s heavy on innuendo – someone was suspended and wonders why – and light on agreed-upon facts.

Elsewhere, Mulkey yells at people and makes them feel bad. She monitors their weight and the way they dress. She doesn’t want to hear their problems – non-basketball matters are delegated to assistant coaches.

It’s not my idea of a dream boss, but the woman’s been coaching this way for a quarter century. It’s not as though anyone expected Ms. Rogers.

There is a digression about the way Mulkey handled the Russian imprisonment of her former star player, Brittney Griner. Mulkey didn’t talk about it enough for some people.

By the end of their time together, Griner and Mulkey did not get along. This doesn’t strike me as that unusual when you put two go-go types in close proximity for four years.

“It seemed like all she cared about was the image of the program as seen through the eyes of a very specific segment of the population,” the Post quotes Griner as writing in her memoir. “Just once, I wanted her to stop worrying about what everyone else thought and stand by my side.”

There is an affecting, bittersweetness to this passage – like a daughter asking a mother to love her.

Except Mulkey is not Griner’s mother. She was her boss more than a decade ago.

After absorbing the totality of the Mulkey piece, the best way I can think of to sum up the charges against her is that she is insufficiently maternal. She is not willing to put other people’s emotional needs above her own or the program’s.

Would anyone write this about a man? Nowadays, they sure would. But it wouldn’t land with as much noise. It wouldn’t get people as worked up, or if it did, they would be worked up for different reasons.

The notion of daughters vs. mothers is fertile new ground for sports journalism. In the end, everybody wins.

Mulkey wins because by getting out ahead of the story, she softened the blow. Compared to what people expected might be coming at her, what’s arrived seems like small potatoes. Also, the Washington Post does not devote 7,000 words to people who don’t matter.

Mulkey’s critics win because their complaints are displayed in public in a way that will rally their supporters.

Women’s basketball wins because everyone now wants Mulkey to rise above or go down in flames. Her LSU team plays Caitlin Clark’s Iowa on Monday night. That will probably be the most watched women’s sporting event in North American history.

The Post wins because everybody’s talking about its piece.

And sports journalism wins because if you have the ability, time and resources to go really deep on someone, what’s revealed in the end is always fascinating, vexing and worth discussing.

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