Pokey Chatman to Russia, with love for coaching intact


I grew up believing that Russia was a huge, red monster. Of course, I also believed that I’d survive “the bomb” by crouching under my school desk with my hands clasped over my head. Still, I have a hard time thinking of moving to Moscow as a fresh start. But that’s exactly what it is for Pokey Chatman.

Chatman, who resigned as head coach of Louisiana State University earlier this year under a cloud of sexual innuendo, has accepted an associate head-coaching position with Spartak Moscow Region professional basketball team.

This is no Russian exile. Last year, WNBA stars Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Thompson and Lauren Jackson played for Spartak during the off-season, and Spartak won the 2007 EuroLeague Women championship.

Spartak owner Shabtai von Kalmanovic is known for his generosity with players. How generous? Bird and Taurasi lived in a rent-free, six-bedroom villa with an indoor pool and sauna. They had a cook, an interpreter, a driver and plane tickets between Moscow and the United States. Plus salaries around $400,000 for the six-month season. Chatman’s perks are similar, with a salary rumored to be $500,000. Needless to say, she’s excited about it.

“It is a great opportunity because [of] how it positively affects every other aspect and the momentum it builds,” Chatman said. “It doesn’t take away what I want to do with the basketball camps or my consulting. I can still do all of that and coach basketball at the highest level with the No. 1 team in the world. The pieces all fit.”

Chatman recently spoke about her abrupt departure from LSU for the first time since she left. Her story is much different from what we heard from LSU officials. Most striking is that not a single LSU authority discussed the situation with her. Chatman’s associate coach — and subordinate — Bob Starkey delivered the message that she needed to step aside. This, after a 20-year career at LSU.

Although Chatman hasn’t addressed the allegations that she had sexual relationships with players, she doesn’t have to worry about whether any rumors will affect her job. Her new boss, von Kalmanovic, has been accused of everything from trafficking in African diamonds to being a KGB spy.

After a tough year, things for Pokey Chatman are looking up. I, for one, am glad. What do you think?

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