LSU Keeps Managing To Find Its Way Back

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 7, 2008

TAMPA, April 6 -- Considering all the LSU women's basketball program has been through the past five years -- death, natural disaster, scandal and coaching changes -- it's a wonder the Lady Tigers are making their fifth consecutive Final Four appearance.

LSU has endured the death of coach Sue Gunter in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the abrupt resignation of coach Pokey Chatman a year ago after allegations of an improper relationship with a former player and the hiring of Van Chancellor, its fourth coach in five seasons, counting interim coach Bob Starkey. Though it all, the Lady Tigers have persevered, though they have yet to win a game.

"Every year we've been able to fight and get to this point," point guard Erica White said. "And at the same time, we've gotten here and kind of had a letdown."

The players credit first-year coach Chancellor with bringing much-needed stability to the program. When he arrived, he called them the "uptightest" team he had ever seen and set about loosening them up.

"It has been great having Coach Chancellor on our side, letting us see the big picture," center Sylvia Fowles said. "In previous years, we always had something to play for or play against. This year, we've just been free."

Wiggins Likes Company

As an all-American, Stanford senior Candice Wiggins has been to the Final Four every year. This is the first time she's gotten to bring her teammates along, and it has been a whole new experience for her.

"The craziest part is looking at those signs up there and seeing the Stanford S," she said. "I've come to Final Fours, but I've been on the outside looking in. Now to be on the inside, that is what is different and is so much fun because you're able to showcase [the team]. People are going to see our team play. That's the best part of it, because [to] have your team with you, it's cool."

McLaren's View

Good Counsel's Kaili McLaren is playing in her first Final Four. The 6-foot-2 sophomore forward has started the last nine games for Connecticut.

"It's been a lot of fun," McLaren said. "It's going to be a lot of fun [playing in the semifinals] but it's going to be a lot harder and more serious. We know we need to separate fun and games from cracking down and being serious, and I feel that our practices have been serious."

Toliver Wins Award

Maryland's Kristi Toliver won the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation's top point guard. . . . Half of the State Farm all-American team is playing in the national semifinals. . . . All four coaches have coached on an Olympic team: Tennessee's Pat Summitt, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer and LSU's Van Chancellor were head coaches; Connecticut's Geno Auriemma was an assistant. . . . Sheila Johnson, president and managing partner of the Washington Mystics, took part in the Women in College Sports Forum sponsored by the NCAA here Sunday morning. Johnson is hosting the WNBA draft on Wednesday at her Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla.

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