Chancellor succeeds Chatman; Berry's status uncertain

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's Final Four streak now rests in the hands of a man who knows about winning WNBA championships and Olympic gold medals.

Next season, Van Chancellor will get as good a chance as he's ever had to win his first national title as a college coach.

Chancellor was hired as the women's basketball coach at LSU on Wednesday, succeeding Pokey Chatman.

He intends to keep at least some of the coaching staff left behind when Chatman abruptly resigned last month just before the NCAA Tournament. Chancellor singled out for mention assistant Bob Starkey, who took
over the team and guided the squad to its fourth consecutive Final Four appearance.

"I wouldn't have taken this job if Bob Starkey wasn't wanting to stay here," Chancellor said at a news conference. "Why would I want to change a Final Four team four years in a row?"

Chancellor, 63, was the women's coach at Mississippi from 1978-97 before leading the WNBA Houston Comets to four straight championships (1997-2000). He also coached the U.S. team to a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and has a 38-0 record in international competition.

Chatman resigned March 7 amid allegations of inappropriate conduct with a former LSU player when that player was a member of the women's basketball team. The team went on to the NCAA Tournament, losing in the semifinals under Starkey, who has said several times he did not want the head coaching job but hoped to remain at LSU as a top assistant.

"Personally, I'm very happy," said Starkey, who has lived in Baton Rouge nearly two decades and recently built a new house here. "I don't think I could have gone out and picked somebody more perfect for where this program is right now. Our fans are going to fall in love with him. The thing Van Chancellor brings is a lot of stability and integrity, and those are the two most important things we need right now."

As of late Wednesday, Starkey was officially listed as the only holdover on the new staff, his photo right below Chancellor's on LSU's Web site. Senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent told ESPN.com that Chancellor has yet to sit down with the rest of the staff -- assistant coaches Carla Berry and Christie Sides and director of basketball operations Joe Carvalhido -- to discuss the future.

When reached late Wednesday in her office, Berry declined to comment on whether she would be part of Chancellor's staff. It was Berry who reported the alleged improper sexual relationship that prompted Chatman's resignation.

Berry was still working the recruiting trail Wednesday and was expected to talk to Kansas City prep star Tyra White later in the evening. White told ESPN.com "it's good" that LSU's coaching situation has begun to clear up after a month of uncertainty.

Asked if Chancellor's hire brings closure to one of the darker months in the history of LSU athletics, Vincent said, "We certainly think it's a great step to the future.

"We think it's a tremendous hire, and I think everybody here is excited about it. He's got a lot of energy, and we just think we're very fortunate to be able to hire a coach the quality of Van Chancellor," Vincent said.

LSU senior women's administrator Judy Southard said Chancellor accepted the job before the details of his contract had been worked out. She said the university is working on a five-year deal with the coach but she did not discuss his salary, which must be approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors.

With nine seniors returning to a program that has been one of the best in the country in recent seasons, the hiring of Chatman's successor received a lot of fanfare on campus. Boosters and coaches from LSU's other sports, including football coach Les Miles, filled a function room in the athletic building where Chancellor was introduced.

"When I first went to Ole Miss in 1978, there wasn't this many people in the stands to watch our games," Chancellor said as he acknowledged Miles and several others in the room.

Chancellor said he still considered LSU to be the late Sue Gunter's program. Both coaches grew up in Mississippi and were friends for decades before Gunter, who coached at LSU for 22 years, died in 2005.

"I just hope, as I think about it, that I can make her proud of this program," Chancellor said. "I just truly loved her."

Chancellor also made a point to praise Chatman's contributions as both a player and coach.

"I wish her the very best," he said.

And he was highly complimentary of the current staff of assistants and roster of players who've won a lot of games together in recent seasons.

"I've never been to a Final Four. I want to go to one," he said, looking at LSU players in the room. "Please, players, get me there."

The charismatic coach, taking the microphone from the podium and pacing around like a celebrity on the lecture circuit, cracked constant one-liners to the amusement of an audience that included LSU athletic director Skip Bertman and university chancellor Sean O'Keefe.

"If we do well, I'm the man. If we don't. It's Bob's responsibility," he said.

When asked when he realized he was the front-runner for the job, he said, "I knew if they wanted the best coach available they'd call me."

Chancellor led Ole Miss to a 439-154 record in 19 seasons, with his team making 14 NCAA Tournament appearances. Mississippi won the 1992 Southeastern Conference regular-season championship with an 11-0 record. That team proved to be his best, finishing 29-3 and reaching the Midwest Regional final.

Chancellor then joined the fledgling WNBA, where he coached the Comets for 10 seasons.

LSU's players, often smiling or laughing at Chancellor's jokes during his formal introduction, appeared pleased with the move.

Guard Erica White said LSU administrators had allowed players to influence the decision, asking them whether they would be comfortable playing for Chancellor before they hired him.

"I'm excited. I think he's a great guy and a great coach," said White, who had met Chancellor when he worked as a broadcaster on selected LSU games. "He'll definitely lighten up the mood any time he wants to and I think that helps out a lot."

Information from ESPN.com writer Elizabeth Merrill and The Associated Press was used in this report.