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Allegations that former Louisiana State University women's basketball coach Pokey Chatman had an affair with one or more of her players will hurt women's basketball, WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes said Friday.
Swoopes, who made headlines two years ago by announcing that she is a lesbian, said she hasn't spoken with Chatman since her resignation in early March.
''If it happened, ethically it's probably not good,'' Swoopes said. ''To see something like that happen, whether it's true or not, I think it's just very damaging to women's basketball.''
The Houston Comets' star was back at Texas Tech, where she helped the Lady Raiders win a national title 14 years ago, for a preseason game against the Detroit Shock.
In a wide-ranging interview, the only WNBA player to win three league MVP trophies talked about Chatman, the future of the league, how much longer she'll play, and her alma mater. It was Swoopes's first visit to Texas Tech since coming out in late 2005.
Swoopes said she had worried about returning to conservative West Texas and what fans might think right after revealing her sexuality. She said she feels differently now, thanks to encouragement and support she's received since.
''I'm sure there's still people who aren't too happy with it,'' Swoopes said. ''But when I made that decision I just said, 'You know what, I'll deal with whatever happens when it happens, good, bad, indifferent.' "
Swoopes had plenty of good when she played on Texas Tech's 1993 national championship team. She played under Marsha Sharp, who coached the Lady Raiders for 24 years before resigning in 2005 without ever having a losing season.
But last year under new coach Kristy Curry, Texas Tech had its first losing season (15-16) in a quarter century.
Swoopes said it's only a matter of time before Tech returns to the upper echelon of women's college basketball.
''There's no doubt in my mind that they can get back to that level,'' Swoopes said. ''I think coach Curry has that same passion'' as Sharp did.
She wishes WNBA fans had more passion. One of the original players in the league, Swoopes acknowledged that the WNBA continues to struggle. Much of that can be attributed to diminished exposure from when the league began in 1997.
''I think until we get back to the point to where we're getting more games on television and we're getting more sponsors to come out, we're going to kind of stay where we are right now,'' she said.
She added that the ''incredible'' talent of college players would seem to be in the league's favor. But, she said, ''TV is what sells your product.''
Though the length of her college career was finite, the duration of her professional one isn't. The 36-year-old star said she checks her gut at the end of each season and that her decision to keep playing is guided by whether she's having fun and continuing to feel challenged.
''When I lose that, then I know it's time for me to move on to something else, and right now I still have that hunger, and the fun and the challenge of it,'' she said.
Swoopes said she feels she understands the challenge Chatman is facing after leaving LSU amid the allegations. The ripple effect--particularly on black female coaches, which Chatman was--is difficult to quantify, she said.
''We've had to work extremely hard to get to where we are, to get to the top,'' Swoopes said. ''Pokey was a role model for a lot of young girls out there, a lot of women who are already head coaches.''
But in the long run, Swoopes said, Chatman's successful coaching career won't be overshadowed by the allegations.
''Whether it's true or not, I still think what she's done, her legacy, will be left,'' Swoopes said. ''She will definitely be missed, not just at LSU but in the game of women's basketball.'' (AP)