Pokey Chatman took roundabout route to Chicago

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Pokey Chatman completed her first season with the WNBA as the Chicago Sky’s head coach and general manager. She was the only Black woman in the league to hold dual roles this season.

 

Being in this position, Chatman can sign the players as well as coach them. As a result, this leverage can’t be understated.

 

“[Maybe] the playoffs aren’t an option, but you can play for an opportunity to win more games than you did last year,” states Chatman. “An opportunity to win more games than have ever been won in this franchise, or play for a paycheck. Pick one.

 

“The expectation is to play hard, and the goal is to play smart,” continues Chatman. “I don’t like the ‘play for pride.’ I think you play to make progress and try to get better. Whenever you suit to play the game that you love and get paid to do it, people would kill for that.”

 

Chatman previously coached three years in Russia after serving 15 years on the LSU coaching staff, where she also played and graduated.

 

As a point guard (1987-1991), she helped her club to their first-ever SEC tournament title in 1991 and was named the tourney’s most valuable player as well as making Kodak All-American. She also made all-conference thrice and set 20 school records.

 

Later, after the late Sue Gunter was forced to step down for health reasons midway through the 2003-04 season, Chatman was named the Lady Tigers’ head coach. She went 47-3 in her first 50 games and took the team to three consecutive Final Fours in three seasons. She finished with a 90-14 collegiate record.

 

Chatman then went overseas, first as an assistant coach of the Russian Spartak Moscow Region in 2008 and 2009. She then was promoted to head coach in 2010 and won that year’s Euroleague Championship. She also coached the Slovakian national women’s basketball team (2008-10).

 

The Sky finished this season 14-20 overall and 10-12 against Eastern Conference clubs in Chatman’s inaugural season.

 

“It’s been an exciting experience,” she says. “Obviously we are disappointed because there would be no post-season play, but it has been a learning experience. I learned a lot about myself and about my team. I think I will be a better coach and a better general manager because of all of it.”

 

WNBA draft lottery set

 

The WNBA last week announced that the 2011 Draft Lottery is scheduled for November 10 in New York. It will establish who will pick in the first four slots next spring.

 

Tulsa, Chicago and Los Angeles are the top three teams that didn’t make the playoffs who will vie for the top ping-pong ball and the right to draft first.
If the lottery pans out in a natural order, or if the lottery didn’t exists, Tulsa would pick first since they had the worst record (3-31) this past season. The Shock had the worst record last season as well but selected behind Minnesota, who won the right to select Maya Moore first.

 

Chicago (14-20) and Los Angeles (15-19) rounds out the lottery-eligible teams. League champion Minnesota will be in the lottery again next month because they obtained Washington’s first-round pick in the Nicky Anosike trade last spring. Had the trade not occurred, the Mystics would have been in the lottery, since they missed the playoffs.

 

The 2012 WNBA Draft will be held next April.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.