The Washington Post

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey diagnosed with Bell’s palsy as Bears gear up for Final Four

She may not show it, but Baylor coach Kim Mulkey is beaming on the inside with Brittney Griner & Co. two wins away from a perfect season. (Rod Aydelotte/AP)

But if the 11th-year coach doesn’t appear to be wearing her excitement on her face, it’s because she can’t.

At a Thursday press conference, Mulkey revealed she has been diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis that is usually temporary.

“Don’t let anybody tell you I’m not happy because I’m not smiling,” Mulkey said. “I’m not smiling because I don’t want people to see my crooked smile.”

The condition makes Mulkey’s left eye droop — something she attempted to counteract by using her finger to keep her eyelid open while taking questions alongside junior star center Brittney Griner. She also has difficulty hearing, especially when she raises her voice. Mulkey said she first noticed a strange feeling in her tongue last weekend during the NCAA regional in Des Moines, but thought it was due to expired toothpaste. With the symptoms quickly worsening, she visited two doctors and got an MRI that ruled out a stroke or tumor.

Mulkey shares a moment with Tennessee coach Pat Summitt during the second half of Monday’s regional final. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Mulkey missed Baylor’s first-round tournament game in 2009 while recovering from surgery to remove a kidney stone.

“I learned then your health keeps you in the game or it doesn’t, and we have really no control over health issues a lot of times,” Mulkey said. ”I learned this game can be taken away from you in a heartbeat.”

But Mulkey won’t let the ailment keep her from her coaching duties on Sunday when her undefeated Lady Bears take on Stanford. Baylor is trying to return to the final for the first time since they won their only NCAA championship in 2005.

Follow us: MattBrooksWP | @CindyBoren


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Matt Brooks is the high school sports editor for The Washington Post. He's an Arlington native and longtime District resident and was previously a high school sports reporter, editor for several blogs and Early Lead contributor with The Post.


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