YEAR IN REVIEW: 2006-07 LSU Women's Hoops

It was the worst of times… well, it was the worst of times.

Even Charles Dickens himself couldn't have written any "best of times" into the 2006-07 Lady Tigers basketball season.

Fifty years from now, maybe people won't remember what transpired in March of 2007.

When looking through history books, all anyone will likely see is LSU reached its fourth straight Final Four, won 30 games for the fourth time in five seasons and was firmly affixed near the top of the women's college basketball hierarchy.

That will reflect "the best of times."

Hopefully, in a half-century or so, people won't be able to read between the lines. Maybe by that time the cloud that hung over the Lady Tigers program will have burned off like a morning fog on a warm day. In those shadows, will be where the "worst of times" will remain forever.

In year one of the post Seimone Augustus era, many were waiting to see if LSU would be able to maintain its elite status among the nation's top teams. It was successful season for the most part, dotted with a few disappointing losses along the way.

After winning back to back SEC titles in 2005 and 2006 and compiling a 27-1 league record in Augustus' last two seasons, the Lady Tigers' 10-4 conference finish a year ago might have been viewed as a slightly disappointing.

Losses at Georgia and at Vanderbilt were tough, but not nearly as unsightly as a out of the ordinary defeat at Ole Miss. The Lady Tigers fought valiantly in a five-point loss to Tennessee at home, but the eventual national champions proved too tough for coach Pokey Chatman's team.

That is, however, until they met again in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.
LSU fell behind by double digits early in the first half, but came storming back for a halftime lead that the Lady Tigers used to defeat No. 2 Tennessee by nine points.

It was Chatman's 90th win in just under three full seasons as LSU's head coach. No one could have imagined it would her last.

The Lady Tigers lost the SEC Tournament championship game to Vanderbilt 51-45 and heading back to Baton Rouge to begin making preparations for the NCAA Tournament.

What many Lady Tiger fans didn't know was that behind the scenes the Chatman era was coming to an abrupt and disappointing end.

On Tuesday, March 7, LSU issued a statement stating Chatman was resigning as coach of the Lady Tigers, but would coach the team through the NCAA Tournament. The release stated Chatman wanted to "explore other career opportunities."

Smelling blood in the water, the media jumped on the story and it wasn't long before the truth came out; Chatman had been at the center of an ongoing investigation by the university. Longtime assistant coach and former teammate Carla Berry alerted university officials alleging that Chatman had ongoing sexual relationships with former players.

A week after Chatman's abrupt resignation and the ensuing media whirlwind, the university released another statement saying Chatman wouldn't coach the team through the NCAA Tournament and associate head coach Bob Starkey would assume the position as head coach for the remainder of the season.

Chancellor Sean O'Keefe praised Berry for her actions and Chatman went into hiding.
Starkey handled himself elegantly despite intense media scrutiny and did an amazing job of shielding his squad from the whirlwind that had engulfed the program.

Starkey and his Lady Tigers gathered themselves for the NCAA Tournament and opened the Big Dance with a 77-39 win over UNC-Asheville. While the win was a dominating victory, it was apparent the Lady Tigers were struggling mentally with the events of the past two weeks.

The emotional strain was never more apparent than in the second round when, after leading the entire first half, LSU found itself in an 11-point hole to West Virginia with 12 minutes left in the game. Sitting courtside that night in Austin's Frank Erwin Center calling the game for ESPN was Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor. He said later, "I thought they were done right then."

But something changed late in the game.

Starkey huddled his team together and regrouped. Led by Sylvia Fowles and Erica White, the Lady Tigers outscored the Lady Mountaineers 25-8 in the final dozen minutes and won 49-43.

Back in the Sweet 16 for the fifth straight season, LSU made quick work of Florida State defeating the Lady Noles 55-43. The win set up an Elite Eight matchup with No. 4 Connecticut, a team which had beaten LSU 72-71 in Baton Rouge six weeks earlier.

That game might go down as one of the most dominating performances ever put forth by a Lady Tiger team in program history.

On the strength of 23 points and 15 rebounds by Fowles and a 70-percent (7 of 10) clip from beyond the three-point arch, LSU took it to the Lady Huskies. The Lady Tigers led by as many as 17 in the first half and by game's end posted a 73-50 victory over Geno Auriemma's team.

The most unlikely of stories, the improbable Lady Tigers were headed back to the Final Four for the fourth straight season. An emotional Starkey received the Fresno Regional Championship Trophy while Fowles clipped down the nets.

Unfortunately, though, the storybook run didn't end with Starkey hoisting the national championship trophy. LSU clearly had nothing left in the tank by the time it got to Cleveland for the national semifinals. A hot-handed Rutgers team hit 10, three-pointers and held the Lady Tigers without a double-digit scorer as LSU lost in its fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four.

Despite the final outcome, what once looked like the death of a program turned into a ray of light.

Ten days later, LSU hired the Hall of Fame Chancellor as the next coach of the Lady Tigers.


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