It was inevitable right?
As a player, she was a point guard, a 5-time AAU All-American in High School, and 4-year All SEC selection at college. As a head coach, her winning percentage is over 85%. She's won European titles, made trips to the NCAA Final Four, and in her "spare time" coaches another small country's national team.
Still, with a lot of water under the bridge I'm not interested in discussing, it's taken until now for Pokey Chatman to get "the call" to return to head coaching in the United States. The Chicago Sky has named Chatman their head coach and general manager for the 2011 WNBA season, reuniting her with two Spartak players, Epiphanny Prince and of course, her former LSU All-American as well, Sylvia Fowles.
Just last month, before this all occurred, I got to talk to Coach Pokey on Dishin & Swishin (www.wstrradio.com), about her career, coaching in Europe, and the WNBA. If you read on, you can enjoy the highlights!It's been a few years now that Pokey Chatman has been the head coach of one of the most powerful women's basketball dynasties in the world, Spartak Moscow. Featuring some of the best players in the world, including in the past Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles, the team had an "interesting" season last year, however, it ended in disappointing fashion with a controversial defeat to their arch-rival. Pokey discussed the two leagues Spartak plays in, and last season.
One of the bigger stories that overshadowed last year's European seasons involved the assassination of Spartak owner Shabtai von Kalmanovic. A larger than life character, you can say what you want about Shabtai, but he was a true lover of women's basketball, and treated the players on his team like royalty. Pokey and I discussed the loss of Spartak's beloved owner.
A southern girl in Moscow? That's got to be some culture and climate shock! I talked to Pokey about adjusting to living and traveling in Russia and throughout Europe
This past summer, looking for another challenge, Pokey took on the head coaching job for the Slovakian national team. The country had participated in previous Olympic games, so there is a history there, and Pokey has set about leading them back to international success. Where that goes now will be sorted out, but I talked to her about her "second job".
Coaching in Russia is no different than anywhere else, when it comes to replacing stars. It's difficult, at best. Spartak has lost Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles this season. However, it's nice when Lauren Jackson intends on coming on board as a replacement, Sue Bird will return, and Epiphanny Prince is showing amazing growth. I talked to Pokey on the 2010-11 Spartak team.
When I talked to Pokey, the Sky and Liberty jobs had opened up, and it was prior to the Silver Stars' opening. Still, every year it has seemed when there was an opening in the WNBA, discussion turned inevitably to who would "take a chance" on Pokey. All other things aside, the woman has shown she can coach, and has deserved an opportunity in the WNBA. I talked to her last month about coaching in the WNBA, and pursuing jobs vs. having teams come to her.
Not knowing at the time she would in fact be in the WNBA, and who would be the personnel on her team, how would Pokey prefer to coach? What style of game suits her, uptempo, defensive, grind it out, run and gun? I asked Pokey to describe her coaching style.
So here we sit, Halloween weekend 2010, and have the Chicago Sky fans gotten a treat or has the organization played another trick on them?
The fans have been patient, but in the short existence of the Sky franchise, they've been through three coaches and two home arenas. What they have not been through is a playoff series. The team has been marked by bad decisions, and bad karma.
Two years ago, Sylvia Fowles missed most of the season with injuries. Syl was healthy last season while Shemeka Christon missed most of the season. The team has talent on the roster, notably the aforementioned Fowles, Christon, and Prince. Another lottery pick will be coming their way, and if the Basketball Gods want to really give the Sky fans a treat, it will be the top lottery pick.
In the meantime, the Sky fans have been given their first successful women's basketball coach. None of the previous coaches had the background and success of Pokey Chatman. None of them knew the women's game, having grown up going through each level. Where will it lead the team in 2011? One can only hope to a BIG treat for Sky fans.