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Mulkey was Griner's college coach from 2009 to 2013 at Baylor University, and was asked about her former player's situation during the team's media day. Daily Advertiser reporter Cory Diaz asked Mulkey to share "her thoughts on" Griner's current situation before the collegiate coach interjected.
"I don't think I've seen anything from you on that," Diaz continued before Mulkey shut down the topic. "And you won't," she said. Mulkey, who now coaches the Louisiana State University Tigers, then offered to answer a previous, unrelated question proposed by Diaz.
Mulkey's refusal to comment led to backlash from fans and WNBA players like Queen Egbo, a standout rookie for the Indiana Fever who played for Mulkey for three years at Baylor.
"A player that built Baylor, 2 [Final Fours], & a 40-0 record. Yet her former coach refuses to say anything or simply just show any kind of support," Egbo tweeted. "Keep that in mind when you're choosing schools."
Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Brittney Griner and Kim Mulkey at Baylor University
Griner has previously said that she and Mulkey had conflicts during her time at Baylor, and that Mulkey had told players not to be open about their sexuality. Griner is openly gay and had told Mulkey that during her recruiting visit, she said in a 2013 ESPN The Magazine interview, but she alleged that the coach instructed players against sharing that out of concern that it would hurt recruiting.
"The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn't let their kids come play for Baylor," Griner said in 2013.
Mulkey coached Baylor's Bears basketball team from 2001 until 2021, before returning to her native Louisiana to coach the Tigers. Following Mulkey's departure, Griner's alma mater appointed Nicki Collen as head coach of Baylor's Bears.
Collen was also asked about Griner on Monday, and unlike Mulkey, had an emotional response.
"Those that have been around me know I get pretty emotional," Collen said, per USA Today. "I think BG, first of all, is human first. I think this is a human rights issue. No one's saying she didn't make a mistake. None of us are perfect."
The former Atlanta Dream head coach continued, "But I guess I would wanna know if I did something and was stuck in a foreign country, what it was, what it wasn't. I think we all know that 10 years is a long time. I see her as a mother, as a sister, as a spouse, as a daughter, as an unbelievable ambassador for the game of basketball."
Nicki Collen was asked about Brittney Griner and she spoke about her for just under 5 minutes.
This comes on the same day that @ByCoryDiaz asked Kim Mulkey about the situation and there was no comment. #Baylor | #SicEm | @KCENSports pic.twitter.com/C9wzFGN4fF
— Matt Lively (@mattblively) September 26, 2022
"I think it's easy to question people you don't know," Collen said. "And you don't know their situation and we can't pretend to know if what was said in the court system was real or just part of the court system. It's no different than people are told by lawyers over here to plead guilty because of certain things in the United States in the court system. It's not my job to judge, quite frankly."
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on Aug. 4 on charges of smuggling drugs into the country, just below the maximum sentence of 10 years. After the trial, Blagovolina had said the sentence was "absolutely unreasonable," and that she and Griner's legal team will file an appeal as soon as possible.
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Blagovolina had previously told PEOPLE that they don't know if the appeal will be successful — and historically, appeals have not done much to change Russian prison sentences — but said that they have to try. "We need to use every legal opportunity that we have, and appeal is one of these opportunities," she said.
Once the appeal does begin, the process will also take several months, another of Griner's lawyers, Alexander Boykov, from the Moscow Legal Center, told PEOPLE. "It's not very fast."