COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A quarter century before LSU's Pokey
Chatman stepped aside amid allegations of improper conduct with a
former player, there was South Carolina's Pam Parsons.
"The difficulty [Chatman] faces is that rules were made that were not there when I was the one who helped everyone get the rules. Stupid moments can last a lifetime and give you a life sentence."
-- Pam Parsons
Twenty-five years ago, Parsons was one of the country's
brightest young coaches who built a growing powerhouse with the
Lady Gamecocks. They won a school-record 30 games in 1980 and
reached the AIAW national semifinals -- then the women's equivalent
to the Final Four.
Less than two years later, Parsons was gone, her sexual
relationship with 17-year-old player Tina Buck splashed on
headlines across the country.
Now, after Chatman's resignation because of alleged improper
conduct with a former player, perhaps no one understands better
than Parsons what may lay ahead for the ex-LSU coach.
"The difficulty she faces is that rules were made that were not
there when I was the one who helped everyone get the rules,"
Parsons said Tuesday.
Parson's relationship with Buck was revealed by Sports
Illustrated. The ex-coach then sued the magazine for $75 million.
But she lied to a federal jury about being in a gay club during the
trial and served four months in prison for perjury.
Parsons, 59, says she's sought understanding ever since.
"I can even admit how stupid" it was, she said. "Stupid
moments can last a lifetime and give you a life sentence. And
that's OK because that's how much time you need to get over what's
in the way of your greatness."
Parsons empathizes with Chatman's harsh fall from grace. If
Chatman called for counsel, Parsons would "hug her completely and
say, 'Oh my gosh, I couldn't imagine anyone else in the universe
would have a similar pattern to work through in life."'
"I don't invite myself places where I'm not wanted. And I'm not wanted. I guarantee you that."
-- Pam Parsons
How long that could take for Chatman, Parsons doesn't know.
"How and what she will need to do, I have no idea," Parsons
said. "It may not even affect her.
Chatman hasn't spoken to reporters since resigning March 7. Led
by assistant coach Bob Starkey, however, the Lady Tigers advanced
to their fourth straight Final Four with a dominating
victory over top-seeded Connecticut, 73-50, on Monday night.
Parsons watched LSU win, relishing each basket and what it meant
to the troubled players and their fans.
"My heart's just singing," Parsons said.
The former South Carolina coach praised the play of LSU star
Sylvia Fowles, who finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds.
"I can't believe she has actually risen to the occasion,"
Parsons said. "We love that as a people. And it means the team can
Whether the Lady Tigers can maintain success without Chatman is
Parsons was 101-43 in four-plus seasons -- she resigned after
starting the 1981-82 season 7-0 -- and led the Lady Gamecocks to
some of their best moments. Her 1980 team posted South Carolina's
only victory in 37 games with powerhouse Tennessee.
They won the WNIT in 1979 and took part in AIAW play in Parsons'
other three full seasons.
Parsons' club continued its strong play after she left, reaching
the inaugural women's NCAA Tournament in 1982. The Lady Gamecocks,
though, have had only seven more NCAA trips since then.
"The most important mission was the return of myself. I can dance with myself if I have to for the rest of this life."
-- Pam Parsons
When reminded she defeated Lady Vols' Pat Summitt, Parsons
quickly added, "So did Pokey. I guess that's over."
Parsons has kept a low profile since her time in the spotlight.
In 1996 she says she tried to apologize to all she harmed through
her actions. Two years after that, Parsons testified in Washington
before the House Judiciary Committee on the damaging affects
perjury can have on one's life.
She has slowly gotten back into basketball through the years,
watching the game with a fan's passion and a coach's analytical
eye. She thinks she could offer something to teams, but does not
wish to put anyone else through dealing with her past.
"So I don't invite myself places where I'm not wanted,"
Parsons said. "And I'm not wanted. I guarantee you that."
Among the hardest things for Parsons was knowing she would
"never be able to be without my past."
Once Parsons accepted that, healing became easier. She hopes
Chatman emerges from her ordeal with a similar sense of peace.
"The most important mission was the return of myself," Parsons
said. "I can dance with myself if I have to for the rest of this