March 08, 2007

Pokey Chatman won't coach LSU in NCAA Tournament

BATON ROUGE — LSU women's basketball coach Pokey Chatman, who on Wednesday announced she would step down from her position after the season had concluded, has since decided not to lead the Tigers into next week's NCAA Tournament.

"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," said Chatman in a statement from the school. "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."

LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman said that assistant coach Bob Starkey will act as the head coach during the NCAA Tournament

On Wednesday, Chatman released a statment that said, "I have notified the university today that I will step down as head coach of the women's basketball program in order to allow me to pursue other career opportunities."

Michael Bonnette, a sports information director at the school, confirmed the resignation and said it was unexpected. "I was stunned," Bonnette said.

"We respect the decision that Pokey Chatman has made regarding her future career opportunities," Athletic Director Skip Bertman said in a news release. "On behalf of LSU, I thank her for her athletic accomplishments as a player and as a coach, and for the community service work she has performed for Baton Rouge and Louisiana."

The Lady Tigers, currently ranked 10th in the nation, are 26-7 this season after losing to Vanderbilt on Sunday night in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game.

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 cancer. That included a trip to the Final Four in New Orleans, where the Lady Tigers fell in the semifinals to Tennessee.

Her decision to leave came as a surprise in light of her long ties to LSU and her never before indicating publicly that she was dissatisfied with her job.

Chatman, a Louisiana native, has been at LSU as both a player and coach for nearly 18 years.

Playing 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.

LSU won SEC regular-season titles in her first two seasons as a head coach and made it to the Final Four last season.

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.

Kim Mulkey, who coached Baylor to the 2005 national championship, is a Louisiana native who played and served as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech. After Baylor won its Big 12 Conference quarterfinal game in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night against Kansas, Mulkey didn't want to talk about the possibility of coaching at LSU.

"I just don't even think making a comment about any of the job openings is appropriate," Mulkey said. "Baylor treats me great. We are a Top 25 team. I get paid great at Baylor. It's nothing more than another job that is open, just like the Florida job, just like the Michigan job, just like the Arkansas job.

"You hear it (speculation). You hear it all the time. Anybody who is young and has built a program, it goes without saying that any job opening your name is somehow going to be attached to it. When job openings come up, there's speculation and things to write about. ... It's just part of it. It's part of the profession."

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