AUSTIN, Texas -- It's back to basketball for LSU.
Friday's short practice before the Lady Tigers' first NCAA
Tournament game was a welcome respite from a week of controversy
after head coach Pokey Chatman abruptly resigned amid allegations
of improper conduct with a former player.
"Obviously our program has been through a lot in the last
week," said assistant coach Bob Starkey, who is leading the team
in the tournament. The Lady Tigers (26-7) are the No. 3 seed in the
Fresno Regional and play No. 14 North Carolina-Asheville (21-11) on
"Before we left, our team got together and we made a decision
once we got on the plane, our focus was going to be completely
about who we're playing. We're not worried about anything that
happened in past," Starkey said.
Starkey and the players couldn't completely avoid the subject.
Reporters asked the players several questions about the
difficulties of the week before the NCAA moderator cut off the line
"It's been easy for me to focus on basketball," junior guard
Erica White said. "We've practiced. We've practiced well and I'm
sure we'll be able to carry that over into the game."
Starkey ran the team through a spirited workout.
"I need better, quicker, harder second cuts," he barked during
a half-court drill. "Game speed!"
Assistant coach Carla Berry also was at the practice. School
officials acknowledged Thursday that Berry reported the alleged
improper conduct that led to Chatman's resignation.
She occasionally clapped, but mostly stood with her arms crossed
or looking a piece of paper. She and Starkey shared a brief laugh
once near midcourt. An LSU spokesman said Berry would not speak to
Sylvia Fowles, LSU's leading scorer and rebounder, had been
candid this week about her feelings toward the departed coach,
repeatedly referring her to as a "second mom." Fowles suggested
Friday the Lady Tigers wouldn't miss a beat with Starkey leading
"A lot of people talk about coach Chatman and the emotion she
brings to the table with this team," Fowles said. "Even though
[Starkey] always worked behind the scenes, he always managed to get
things done. Just to have him up front now. I think it's going to
be even better now."
A career assistant thrust into a leadership role under tough
circumstances, Starkey said he's not nervous about Saturday's game.
"I've got a wonderful team. some good assistants, that makes
everything easier," Starkey said. "The biggest challenge is what
I'm doing right now and that's meeting with the media."
Starkey said his players have been in a good mood on the court
and when traveling.
"They're have a great time. I really believe they're focused
in," he said. "I think that will be a big part of our success."