In hiring Chatman, Sky puts emphasis on winning
There's futility and then there's Cubs futility.
The Chicago Sky is nowhere near being Cubs-like, but there is a clear level of frustration within the franchise about the Sky's playoff history.
The problem is, there is none.
The Sky will open its sixth WNBA season next summer and the team is 0-for-5 at making the playoffs.
To maintain any relevancy in this market, and ultimately viability as a franchise, the Sky desperately needs to start winning games in bunches. Enough to make the playoffs on a consistent basis.
And Pokey Chatman can win basketball games.
That's why she was introduced Friday morning as the Sky's new head coach and general manager. It's also why the Sky is willing to keep her past in the past.
Chatman does come with some baggage the kind of baggage that ironically resulted in the resignation of one of the Sky's previous head coaches, Bo Overton. Chatman is the Sky's fourth coach in six seasons and its first female head coach.
"I'm excited, I'm trying to contain myself here," Chatman said via Skype from Russia. "I haven't slept in three straight days. I've been like a kid before Christmas. This wasn't about any job, because there have been other opportunities, like three or four (recently). There was just something about this opportunity that felt right."
Chatman replaces Steven Key, who resigned shortly after the 2010 season ended in August. Key went 42-60 in three seasons with the Sky.
Chatman's numbers have always been much flashier.
She will be coming to the Sky from Moscow, where she is currently the head coach of the Russian Spartak Moscow Region team, the Rolls Royce of Euroleague women's basketball teams.
In 2010, Chatman led Spartak, which included the Sky's Sylvia Fowles and WNBA icon Diana Taurasi among its superstars, to a perfect 16-0 record and the league championship.
From 2004-07 when she was the head coach at LSU, Chatman was rolling up the victories left and right. Through her first 50 games, she boasted a 47-3 record. She guided the Tigers to consecutive Final Four appearances as well as consecutive Southeastern Conference championships.
But, as former Poison lead singer Bret Michaels has sung, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
This rose certainly does.
As good as Chatman has been on the basketball court, she also has had her share of trouble off of it.
There was a reason Chatman left a gold mine like LSU for the unpleasant winters of Russia.
Actually, Chatman didn't leave. She was forced out.
In March of 2007, she found herself in the center of a firestorm that made national headlines. One of Chatman's assistant coaches, Carla Berry, accused her of having inappropriate sexual relationships with former players.
Within days, Chatman issued a press release saying that she would not coach her players in the upcoming NCAA Tournament because her presence would be too much of a distraction. Later, she resigned altogether, and her lawyers contended that the resignation was coerced and they would seek $900,000 from LSU for the remaining two years on her contract.
A few months later, Chatman reportedly settled for approximately $160,000 .
Meanwhile, Overton was the Sky's head coach in 2007, and he resigned after the 2007 season amidst allegations posted on a Sky team message board that he had been having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a player.
Neither the accusations against Chatman nor those against Overton were ever proven true, and no charges were ever filed.
"It's certainly something I needed to understand, and it concerned me," Sky owner Michael Alter said Friday in regard to Chatman's resignation at LSU. "But having looked into it, I feel confident that there are no issues and that's she's qualified to coach.
"I'm very comfortable with Pokey and what she brings."
Basketball-wise, Pokey brings a lot to the table. Not only is she a proven winner, but she appears to be the kind of coach who can squeeze every last ounce of potential out of her players.
I was impressed with her coaching style when I covered her team at the 2005 Women's Final Four in Indianapolis.
Alter acknowledged that Chatman has since moved on from her ordeal at LSU and that everyone deserves a second chance.
Somewhere out there, Overton is probably wondering if this means his second chance is right around the corner.
Dana 'Pokey' Chatman at a glance
New job: Chicago Sky general manager and head coach
Current job: Head coach of Spartak Moscow Region, which had a perfect 16-0 Euroleague record and won the 2010 Euroleague Championship.
Personal: Born June 18, 1969. Hometown: Ama, LA. Graduated from Lousiana State University in 1991.
Honors: Many, including coach of the year honors for 2004-05 season at LSU from U.S. Basketball Writers Association, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, and Naismith winner.
Playing career: All-American point guard at LSU from 1987-1991.
Head coaching record
2003-04 (LSU): 15-5 as interim head coach after coach fell ill.
2004-05 (LSU): 33-3 as team was ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks.
2005-06 (LSU): 31-4, with 11 wins against Top 25 teams.
2006-07 (LSU): 26-7, before resigning March 7 as team was headed to its fourth consecutive Final Four appearance.
2007-09: Associate head coach for Moscow's Spartak, which became the first club ever to win the Euroleague Women title three straight years.
2009-10: As head coach, led Spartak to 16-0 record with average margin of victory more than 20 points en route to another Euroleague Championship.