Pokey Chatman returns to Hahnville to offer inspiration

Published 2:40 pm Friday, March 20, 2015

BOUTTE — Pokey Chatman stood before an auditorium full of students at Hahnville High, her alma mater, and offered words of inspiration.

Truthfully, though, Chatman’s presence at the school served as an inspiration in and of itself: one of the most decorated and successful figures ever to step into the world of women’s basketball began her journey within the very halls the students seated before her walk today.

“The academic and educational experience (Hahnville) offers today really blows my mind,” Chatman said Thursday. “It’s crazy good. You all have an incredible opportunity before you.”

Pokey Chatman speaks in front of an auditorium full of Hahnville students about what it takes to be successful in life.

Pokey Chatman speaks in front of an auditorium full of Hahnville students about what it takes to be successful in life.

Chatman is currently the head coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, positions she’s held since 2010. She spent a total of 20 years with LSU as a student and player, then an assistant coach and ultimately the head coach of the Lady Tigers. As coach, she led LSU to three consecutive Final Fours from 2004-2006.

In August 2007 she signed as assistant coach of the Euroleague’s Women’s Basketball Club Spartak Moscow Region. Spartak won the next three championships and in 2010, as the head coach, Chatman led the team to a 16-0 Euroleague record and its fourth straight Euroleague Championship.

As a player, Chatman was a gold medalist on the USA Women’s U18 team in 1988. She was named All-American as point guard at LSU and led the school to its first ever SEC Tournament championship, winning MVP honors at the event. She was inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame in 1988.

When speaking to the Hahnville students, she stressed a list of keys she called her principles to success, all of them, fittingly, starting with a P: prioritizing, production, preparation, perseverance, perspective and (being) present, offering stories and examples of the benefits of each.

For perseverance, she spoke of her parting with LSU: “I was at my lowest. My inner circle essentially gave me a day to feel sorry for myself. You get back at it.”

That “inner circle” was also a major theme of the day. She referenced “ubuntu,” an idea from the Southern African region loosely defined as, “I am, because we are.”

“You’ll face adversity in life, but you’ll survive and learn from it, because we are one,” she said. “It’s the ultimate form of teamwork, and it applies no matter what walk of life you’re in.”

Chatman, who was born in Ama, said the idea of attending LSU as a young child wasn’t an entirely tangible one because of the financial straits her family found herself in.

“We were on the struggle bus,” she said. “But eventually I’d (not only play at LSU, but) travel to 25-plus countries and coach 43 Olympians.

“Have a vision, a plan and prioritize yourself. Have the discipline to remember what you want to accomplish.”