April 26, 2004

LSU to announce Sue Gunter's retirement

LSU is expected to announce Tuesday that longtime women's basketball coach Sue Gunter is retiring and will be replaced by interim head coach Pokey Chatman.

LSU called a noon news conference, but women's basketball spokesman Brian Miller said he could not go into detail about the subject, other than to say it involved "the coaching situation for the women's basketball team."

Reached at home, guard Scholanda Hoston said the team had a meeting Monday but would not talk about what was discussed.

However, a source in Baton Rouge who declined to be identified confirmed to The Associated Press that Gunter, who had been on leave with respiratory problems since early this past season, would step down and that Chatman would take over.

Gunter, 62, has coached in college for 44 years — 22 at LSU — compiling 708 victories. Among women's college coaches, only Texas' Jody Conradt and Tennessee's Pat Summitt have more victories than Gunter.

"She's one of the important reasons why our sport has flourished," Conradt, a longtime friend of Gunter, said in a phone interview Monday evening. "She's been promoting the sport and creating opportunities for women for a long time."

Conradt said she was not aware Gunter planned to retire Tuesday but said her recent respiratory illness has apparently cut short her career, "because her team has been very competitive the last few years and I know she was enjoying coaching them."

LSU went 14-5 without Gunter last season, 7-4 after Chatman was formally named LSU interim coach on Feb. 19. That included LSU's first appearance in a Final Four, where the Lady Tigers lost on a shot in the closing seconds to Tennessee in the national semifinals.

Chatman had indicated she would entertain head coaching offers from other schools if Gunter returned, but also would have considered returning as an assistant.

Gunter, who was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in June 2000, had 21 seasons with at least 20 victories. This past season might have been her 22nd as LSU went 27-8. But Gunter was not even well enough to watch her team play live during the NCAA tournament. She watched the Final Four in New Orleans from a nearby hotel.

It was the second time Gunter missed out on what apparently will have been a once-in-a-lifetime coaching opportunity. Gunter also was named coach of the 1980 women's U.S. Olympic basketball team, only to remain home when the United State boycotted the Moscow Games in protest of the then-Soviet Union's military incursions in Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, as Gunter reached the 700-game milestone, questions came up about her exact record.

She lists a 44-0 record in her first two years of coaching at Middle Tennessee State. Her record the first four years of her 16-year run at Stephen F. Austin is not listed in the school's media guide. The records begin with the 1972-73 season.

Gunter explained at the time that the NCAA would not verify the Stephen F. Austin records because there was no official stats crew at the games. Gunter said she would pursue the matter with the NCAA after the season ended, but nothing has been announced.

Gunter considered high school coaching after her playing days at Nashville Business College. She was also a member of the U.S. National team. But in the early 1960s, there was a national push from the President's Council on Physical Fitness to jump-start women's athletics programs. Middle Tennessee State offered Gunter a teaching job and a chance to begin an "extramural" basketball team in 1962.

In those days, the game featured a "rover," one player who could cover the entire court, and four that played half-court.

Gunter's overall record includes the games she missed last season while she was sick, up to the point Chatman was formally named interim coach.

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