BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's streak of 12 consecutive appearances in the NCAA women's basketball tournament came to an end this season.
Two days after the Lady Tigers did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, head coach Van Chancellor decided to step down and take a position in the athletic department.
Chancellor, who coached the Lady Tigers for four seasons, will become a special assistant to athletic director Joe Alleva. Chancellor will hold the position for the remainder of his contract, which runs through the end of the 2011-12 academic year.
"I came in here with class and pride," said Chancellor, who had a 90-40 record at LSU. "I am going to take the new position in the same way. I am proud of how we ran this program. We never had a NCAA inquiry or a compliance issue. We graduated every player who was here."
Chancellor, who replaced Pokey Chatman as coach, led the Lady Tigers to the Southeastern Conference title and a Final Four appearance in his first season. LSU lost to Tennessee in the national semifinals.
Hall of Fame Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said she spoke to Chancellor, a longtime friend, by phone on Wednesday and came away with the impression that he was stepping down a little earlier than he would have preferred.
"All he wanted was one more year, and I wish he could have had that one more year," Summitt said. "I really felt for him today."
The Lady Tigers made the NCAA tournament in each of the last two years but lost both times in the second round. For the first time in ten seasons this year, LSU failed to get a first-round bye in the SEC tournament. The Lady Tigers were eliminated in the second round by Kentucky.
"In consultation with Coach Chancellor, we decided to have him join my administrative staff," Alleva said. "That decision is in the best interest of the athletic department and the women's basketball program.
"[Chancellor] came at a time we really needed his guidance and expertise. He has done a great job representing LSU and will continue to do so," Alleva said.
The 67-year-old Chancellor was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2001, he was an inductee in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Chancellor coached the United States to a gold medal in women's basketball at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Chancellor won four WNBA titles as head coach of the Houston Comets. He had a 211-111 record in ten seasons in the WNBA.
"He has done a tremendous job for women's basketball at every level, and he will definitely be missed," said North Carolina-Wilmington coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, a Hall of Fame player who was a star on Chancellor's championship teams with the Comets. "If he wants to retire right now and not coach women's basketball again, he has really been pivotal in the growth of women's basketball in the last 10 to 15 years."
Chancellor, who also coached at Ole Miss, finished with a 529-194 college coaching record in 23 seasons.
"It has been a wonderful, wonderful four years at LSU," he said. "I am looking forward to the next 14 months and being involved at LSU. I'm going to do a bunch of nothing except for what Joe needs me to do in the new job."
Chancellor indicated that he may do some television work at the end of his tenure at LSU. He didn't rule out a return to coaching but said that it would be a WNBA job only.
LSU will immediately begin a search for Chancellor's replacement. Alleva has no timetable for hiring a coach.
"There are a handful of people in whom I'm interested," Alleva said. "Many of them are playing in the NCAA tournament right now. So, I'll have to wait to contact them.
"We are going to get the best person for LSU whether it takes one month or two months. LSU is one of the best jobs in the country. I hope I can attract a top coach," Alleva said.