March 08, 2007

Chatman resigned over inappropriate conduct with one or more players

BATON ROUGE —LSU women’s basketball coach Pokey Chatman resigned Wednesday because the university found out about inappropriate conduct between Chatman and one or more players, according to university sources who are aware of the events or have been briefed on it by school officials.

The precise details of the burgeoning scandal that prompted Chatman’s resignation Wednesday on the eve of the No. 10-ranked Lady Tigers appearance next week on the sport’s grandest stage, the NCAA Tournament, remained murky. It is not clear if Chatman’s alleged transgressions were recent, ongoing or occurred in the past. The time frame of when the university was made aware of the allegations and how it coped with them are also unclear.

LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman declined to discuss the matter Thursday. He reiterated, however, that, “no formal investigation,” had been conducted by the university. Asked if some sort of informal investigation had transpired, Bertman said, “that might have happened.”

“The girl did what she did and LSU had no control over that,” Bertman said of the timing of Chatman's resignation.

No elaboration would be provided by the school, Bertman said. Since the story exploded Wednesday afternoon with Chatman’s announcement that she planned to resign April 30 to pursue other career opportunities, LSU officials have repeatedly told reporters that questions about the matter should be addressed to Chatman and that they were not coordinating responses with her.

While Chatman, a 37-year-old native of Ama who starred at Hahnville High School, will remain employed under her $400,000 a year contract until April 30, on Thursday she released a statement saying she would not coach the team in the NCAA Tournament.

On the second floor of the athletic administration building Thursday, Chatman’s expansive office that overlooks the Pete Maravich Assembly Center where she starred as a player and labored her entire adult career was empty. Staffers said they would relay messages to Chatman requesting an interview, but she had not responded Thursday afternoon.

“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 release posted on the athletic department’s Web site. “I believe it is in the best interests of the team that I step away from my coaching duties immediately. I want the players and staff to have the best chance to maximize the opportunities we’ve earned. I have every confidence in the young ladies and the remaining coaches that they will have success in the NCAA Tournament.”

Assistant coach Bob Starkey will assume head coaching duties as the team moves into the tournament, the school said. Practice was closed for the remainder of the week and players made off-limits to the media. Reporters will be allowed to watch the NCAA Tournament pairings with the team when they are revealed Monday, the school said, and some limited interview opportunities with them will be provided Tuesday and Wednesday.

The LSU program has emerged as one of the country’s best in recent years. That status was cemented under Chatman’s tenure, in which she won several 2005 national Coach of the Year awards and amassed an impressive 90-14 record after replacing her Hall of Fame mentor, Sue Gunter.

At the same time, Chatman earned a reputation as a charismatic and blunt-spoken coach who never shied from a question and handled the outside pressures of the high-profile job with aplomb. Those qualities also helped make her one of the more respected recruiters in the land, and it was her skills that were widely credited with bringing Seimone Augustus, the consensus Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006, and current junior and unanimous All-Southeastern Conference center Sylvia Fowles to Baton Rouge.

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