Chatman's departure at LSU strikes chord with Parson
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A quarter century before LSU's Pokey Chatman stepped aside amid allegations of improper conduct with a former player, there was South Carolina's Pam Parsons.
Twenty-five years ago, Parsons was one of the country's brightest young coaches who built a growing powerhouse with the Lady Gamecocks. They won a school-record 30 games in 1980 and reached the AIAW national semifinals -- then the women's equivalent to the Final Four.
Less than two years later, Parsons was gone, her sexual relationship with 17-year-old player Tina Buck splashed on headlines across the country.
Now, after Chatman's resignation because of alleged improper conduct with a former player, perhaps no one understands better than Parsons what may lay ahead for the ex-LSU coach.
"The difficulty she faces is that rules were made that were not there when I was the one who helped everyone get the rules," Parsons said Tuesday.
Parson's relationship with Buck was revealed by Sports Illustrated. The ex-coach then sued the magazine for $75 million. But she lied to a federal jury about being in a gay club during the trial and served four months in prison for perjury.
Parsons, 59, says she's sought understanding ever since.
"I can even admit how stupid" it was, she said. "Stupid moments can last a lifetime and give you a life sentence. And that's OK because that's how much time you need to get over what's in the way of your greatness."
Parsons empathizes with Chatman's harsh fall from grace. If Chatman called for counsel, Parsons would "hug her completely and say, 'Oh my gosh, I couldn't imagine anyone else in the universe would have a similar pattern to work through in life."'
How long that could take for Chatman, Parsons doesn't know.
"How and what she will need to do, I have no idea," Parsons said. "It may not even affect her.
Chatman hasn't spoken to reporters since resigning March 7. Led by assistant coach Bob Starkey, however, the Lady Tigers advanced to their fourth straight Final Four with a dominating victory over top-seeded Connecticut, 73-50, on Monday night.
Parsons watched LSU win, relishing each basket and what it meant to the troubled players and their fans.
"My heart's just singing," Parsons said.
The former South Carolina coach praised the play of LSU star Sylvia Fowles, who finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds.
"I can't believe she has actually risen to the occasion," Parsons said. "We love that as a people. And it means the team can handle themselves."
Whether the Lady Tigers can maintain success without Chatman is another question.
Parsons was 101-43 in four-plus seasons -- she resigned after starting the 1981-82 season 7-0 -- and led the Lady Gamecocks to some of their best moments. Her 1980 team posted South Carolina's only victory in 37 games with powerhouse Tennessee.
They won the WNIT in 1979 and took part in AIAW play in Parsons' other three full seasons.
Parsons' club continued its strong play after she left, reaching the inaugural women's NCAA Tournament in 1982. The Lady Gamecocks, though, have had only seven more NCAA trips since then.
When reminded she defeated Lady Vols' Pat Summitt, Parsons quickly added, "So did Pokey. I guess that's over."
Parsons has kept a low profile since her time in the spotlight. In 1996 she says she tried to apologize to all she harmed through her actions. Two years after that, Parsons testified in Washington before the House Judiciary Committee on the damaging affects perjury can have on one's life.
She has slowly gotten back into basketball through the years, watching the game with a fan's passion and a coach's analytical eye. She thinks she could offer something to teams, but does not wish to put anyone else through dealing with her past.
"So I don't invite myself places where I'm not wanted," Parsons said. "And I'm not wanted. I guarantee you that."
Among the hardest things for Parsons was knowing she would "never be able to be without my past."
Once Parsons accepted that, healing became easier. She hopes Chatman emerges from her ordeal with a similar sense of peace.
"The most important mission was the return of myself," Parsons said. "I can dance with myself if I have to for the rest of this life."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press