Sources: Chatman quit amid sexual misconduct claims

Updated: March 9, 2007, 8:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Pokey Chatman resigned as the head women's basketball coach at Louisiana State on Wednesday after the university became aware of an alleged inappropriate sexual relationship between Chatman and a former player on Chatman's team, sources told ESPN.com.

Pokey Chatman
AP Photo/Charles KrupaPokey Chatman, a Louisiana native, had been at Louisiana State as both a player and coach for nearly 18 years.

The university, the sources said, learned of the relationship from an employee within the basketball program. It was unclear when the alleged improper conduct took place, but when asked if it had occurred while the player was a member of a team coached by Chatman, a university source said, "that's my understanding."

ESPN.com's attempts to reach the employee by telephone and e-mail on Thursday night and Friday were unsuccessful.

The 37-year-old Chatman, who initially revealed plans to quit after the postseason, said she will not coach the Lady Tigers in the NCAA Tournament. In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Chatman said: "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."

According to reports, Chatman was not forced out "because it did not come to that," an LSU official, quoted in The New York Times on Friday, said. Chatman "became aware that this was being talked about by the university and that if she didn't do something, she wouldn't have a choice," the official added, according to The Times.

LSU assistant coach Bob Starkey, who will take over the team for now, said he was unaware of any improper conduct that would have caused Chatman to resign abruptly.

Caught in the Middle
It's not possible to earn a more resounding "F" than LSU has on dealing with Pokey Chatman's resignation. But amid all the rumors, it's hard not to feel for the LSU players, who are caught in the middle of the debacle, writes Mechelle Voepel. Story

"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, 47, said. "She has her reasons, and hopefully, soon she'll address that herself."

LSU athletic director Skip Bertman told the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, which first reported Chatman's alleged misconduct with one or more players Thursday on its Web site, that no formal inquiry into Chatman's conduct had been opened by the university. Bertman did acknowledge, though, that an informal investigation "might have happened."

"The girl did what she did and LSU had no control over that," Bertman said, referring to Chatman.

Starkey said Chatman did venture onto campus Thursday to tell players she would not coach them during the NCAA Tournament. Her office, which overlooks the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where she played and worked as a coach, was empty.

"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 Chatman's announcement. According to the Times-Picayune, Lady Tigers practices are closed to reporters for the remainder of this week. NCAA Tournament brackets will be announced Monday.

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.

Tenth-ranked LSU (26-7) upset then-No. 2 Tennessee last week in the Southeastern Conference tournament before losing to Vanderbilt in Sunday's tournament final.

Chatman was 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. The Lady Tigers went on to reach the Final Four in New Orleans, where they lost in the semifinals to Tennessee.

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

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

In 2005, Chatman received a four-year contract extension that paid her close to $400,000 annually, plus postseason bonuses ranging from $15,000 for making the NCAA Tournament to $70,000 for winning the 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.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.