Chatman at home back on the court
Embattled ex-LSUcoach resurfaces, says exit wasn't voluntary Saturday,
August 04, 2007
By Lori Lyons
It has been nearly six months since Pokey Chatman abruptly resigned as LSU women's basketball coach before the Lady Tigers were to participate in the NCAA Tournament. Since her departure from the program she had been associated with for the past 20 years, Chatman had not spoken publicly about allegations of improper relationships with her former players.
Chatman, however, emerged Friday in a familiar place. She is hosting a basketball camp for girls ages 10 to 18 at Hahnville High School, her alma mater.
Despite her low profile since March, Chatman, 37, said she has not been in seclusion. She also refused to address the allegations, which were first brought to LSU's attention by assistant coach Carla Berry, a former teammate of Chatman with the Lady Tigers. Chatman and LSU reached a contract settlement of $160,000 in June with an agreement that the former coach wouldn't pursue further litigation.
"I've traveled, I've been to the grocery store, I've been to Wal-Mart," the Ama native said. "I've got to live. Mostly I've been at my house in Baton Rouge, at my place on the river. I've been riding my bike a little bit, spending some time with my friends and family, and basically just getting ready for these camps.
"People assume that I've been in seclusion because I haven't been doing interviews, but I'm at the stage where that's been my life for the past 12 years, so, I'm living. I'm moving forward and making progress."
Chatman announced her resignation with the intention of coaching the team through the NCAA Tournament. A few days later, however, LSU announced that she would not continue to coach the team. Longtime assistant Bob Starkey took over on an interim basis and led LSU to its fourth consecutive Final Four. Van Chancellor, formerly of Ole Miss and the WNBA's Houston Comets, subsequently was hired as LSU's coach.
Chatman said she was caught off guard by the way her coaching career ended. She had been at LSU since 1987, beginning as a player with Coach Sue Gunter. After her playing career was over, Chatman was hired by Gunter as an assistant and took over as head coach on an interim basis in 2004 when Gunter fell ill. That season, Chatman led the Lady Tigers to their first Final Four appearance. She was 90-13 during her tenure, which was the most successful in the program's history.
"I had a 20-year career at LSU, and that didn't warrant a 20-minute conversation," she said. "Would I do things different? That's difficult to say, because I didn't get to do anything. And I'll just leave it at that. I don't want to wrestle in the mud with the pigs. The bottom line is, I worked 20 years for an institution, and I couldn't get a 20-minute conversation about what was going on. That told me right then and there that I was not wanted there."
Asked why she announced her resignation before the tournament instead of waiting until the season ended, Chatman replied: "If (you) think that was voluntary -- come on. I committed to doing my part to keep the madness at a minimum. I had a commitment to the team. Regardless of what everyone else was saying about, 'It's for the players. It's for the kids' -- yeah, right. That was my commitment. That made it easy. It made it easy because they're on the plane and they're calling me. It's halftime of the game, and they're calling me."
Chatman said she watched LSU's victory against North Carolina-Asheville in the first round of the tournament and its loss to Rutgers in the Final Four surrounded by family and friends in Ama -- and a large portion of uneaten boiled crawfish.
"I love crawfish, and I couldn't eat," she said. "They were saying, 'You're not going to eat this crawfish?' And I said, 'Rutgers is not a 3-point shooting team, and they're hitting everything they're putting up. Leave me alone. I'm sick.' "
Since leaving LSU, Chatman said she has been consulting with a shoe company and exploring opportunities, which including coaching possibilities. She also has been spending time with her mother, Carolyn, and her sister, Derrill Scrubbs.
"I'm glad to have her back," Scrubbs said. "I used to call her on the phone and she'd say, 'I have to call you back.' Now she's watching movies she hasn't seen in two years. We're talking about Oprah."
Chatman said she was urged by supporters to hold the camp. Hahnville also hosted her first camp in 1994. Chatman will hold another camp in Baton Rouge later this month.
After spending Friday with about 75 eager basketball players, Chatman was exhilarated.
"It was awesome," she said. "It's just the whole camp mentality. Coaches teach; and the game doesn't change. It doesn't matter if you're coaching professionals or kids.
"Will I coach again? I'm coaching today. Will I ever coach another college team? You never rule anything out, but that's not what I'm looking for today."
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