March 8, 2007
By BRETT MARTEL, Associated Press Writer
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- LSU women's basketball coach Pokey Chatman said Thursday she won't coach in the NCAA tournament, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported on its Web site the resignation was prompted by the school's discovery of inappropriate conduct between Chatman and one or more players.
Assistant coach Bob Starkey, who will take over the team for now, declined to say whether he was aware of any improper conduct.
"There's been 20 to 25 things that are just floating out there, and I think she thought if she just stepped away from it she could eliminate that from even multiplying," Starkey said. "She has her reasons, and hopefully, soon she'll address that herself."
The Times-Picayune, citing university sources, offered few details, saying it was unclear when the alleged transgressions took place. ESPN.com reported LSU had found out about an improper sexual relationship between Chatman and a former player.
LSU athletic director Skip Bertman told the newspaper no formal investigation had taken place but that an informal investigation "might have happened."
"I can understand people's perception, but all I can tell you is the way it unfolded," said Starkey, who added he didn't believe Chatman was forced to resign. "Sometimes in coaching things unfold in ways that are hard to perceive, and this is one of them."
The 37-year-old Chatman hasn't been available to take questions.
"My resignation yesterday has prompted speculation and rumors that far exceeded my expectations, and it is clear that my presence would be a great distraction during the NCAA Tournament," Chatman said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
Starkey said Chatman did venture onto the LSU campus Thursday to tell the team she would not coach them during the NCAA tournament.
"Certainly the kids were disappointed to get the news. Pokey recruited all of those kids either as head coach or as an assistant," Starkey said. "These are not just good basketball players, they're good kids, and I think they're very close, and I think that will help us to try and move forward with it."
Players have been off-limits to the media since the announcement.
Starkey said he and players were caught off-guard when Chatman told the team Wednesday that she wanted to pursue other career opportunities after this season.
"She came in and said for personal reasons some opportunities had come available to her -- that it was something she needed to move on," Starkey said.
The No. 10 Lady Tigers (26-7) upset then-No. 2 Tennessee last week in the Southeastern Conference tournament before falling to Vanderbilt in Sunday's tournament final.
Chatman is 90-14 as LSU's head coach. Before that, she was 15-5 as acting head coach during the latter stages of the 2003-04 season, when longtime coach Sue Gunter left the team because of lung disease. That included a trip to the Final Four in New Orleans, where the Lady Tigers fell in the semifinals to Tennessee.
LSU advanced to the Final Four in her first two seasons as head coach in 2005 and 2006, winning the SEC regular-season titles along the way.
Chatman, a Louisiana native, has been at LSU as both a player and coach for nearly 20 years.
A guard, she was one of LSU's career assist and steals leaders. After her playing career ended in 1991, she spent one season as a student assistant coach and then 12 seasons as associate coach under Gunter.
In 2005, Chatman received a four-year contract extension that pays her close to $400,000 a year plus postseason bonuses ranging from $15,000 for making the NCAA tournament to $70,000 for winning a national title. The highest-paid coaches in women's college basketball, Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Geno Auriemma of Connecticut, both earn more than $1 million per year.
Updated on Thursday, Mar 8, 2007 8:59 pm EST