Sports

Baylor's Kim Mulkey must cope with nerve ailment in Final Four

WACO -- Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey sat through Thursday's news conference at the Ferrell Center without smiling.

But her demeanor wasn't reflecting her attitude; she is, in fact, happy her team is headed to Denver to play Stanford on Sunday in the NCAA Final Four.

She didn't smile because she didn't want to highlight how her face has been affected by Bell's palsy, a condition that paralyzes or causes weakness in the muscles on one side of a person's face.

The palsy should disappear with time, but for now, Mulkey will have to coach the Bears' biggest game of the season with the condition.

"You can notice my eyebrows, my eye droop, and when I smile, it's crooked," said Mulkey, who missed Wednesday's practice to receive medical attention. "It's not going to keep me from hollering."

Mulkey has begun taking steroids and anti-viral medication and joked about the treatments making her irritable. But she also realizes how quickly health can deteriorate.

"We have really no control over health issues a lot of times," Mulkey said. "This game can be taken away from you in a heartbeat."

Most people start recovering as soon as 10 days after receiving treatment.

Mulkey first noticed her tongue felt strange during the trip to the Des Moines Regional. Then on Wednesday, her face started to droop in places and her hearing was affected.

"It almost felt like that numb feeling your get when you have had your teeth worked on," she said.

While she's not sure how the altitude in Colorado will affect her, Mulkey is still focused on Baylor's national-title goal.

"This isn't going to change how I coach," Mulkey said. "I'll just be another ugly coach with a crooked face."

Mulkey had an MRI and other tests Wednesday to rule out a stroke or tumor.

Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @bshirley08

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