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Women’s Basketball: Chancellor imparts wisdom

ESPN analyst shared special bond with former Ragin’ Cajun star Kim Perrot

AUSTIN, Texas – One of the television announcers for today’s first-round NCAA women’s basketball game won’t be an unbiased observer.

Van Chancellor doesn’t know any of the UL players, but he does know the coaching staff – and he had a very special relationship with the best player in the Cajun program’s history.

Chancellor, the women’s head coach at Ole Miss for 16 seasons from 1979-97, met Cajun co-head coach J. Kelley Hall during his tenure as an assistant at Mississippi State and Auburn.

"What a pleasure to see them," Chancellor said during UL’s Friday workout at the Frank Erwin Center. "… I’m glad (J. Kelley Hall) and Meredith have built a program that can get to this tournament."

Chancellor’s Rebel teams made 14 NCAA appearances during his tenure, but it was after his Ole Miss years that he had a much closer encounter with the Cajuns and UL all-time career scoring leader Kim Perrot.

Chancellor was the coach of the Houston Comets of the WNBA in each of the three years that Perrot was a part of that squad, including the 1999 season that Perrot missed during her bout with cancer. Perrot, an inductee this coming June into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, died Aug. 19 of that year at 32.

"In television, you’re supposed to be unbiased at something like this and unaffected by those kind of things," Chancellor said while watching UL’s practice. "But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have feelings for that team out there even though I don’t even know any of them.

"I had a very special bond with Kim. It’s not every day when a coach gets a phone call like I’d get all the time from her. She’d call me during that last year when she wasn’t playing just to say, ‘Remember that I still love you.’ "

Chancellor and Perrot did frequent youth clinics in the Houston area throughout her career, one in which she started two seasons at point guard for the Comets and ranked in the top 10 both years in steals and assists and was runner-up for WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1998.

"She’d get up and tell those kids that her coach didn’t like her and that I did everything I could to cut her," Chancellor said. "She’d say it was hard for a conservative man from Mississippi to deal with a flamboyant kid like her. She’d do that to me all the time."

Chancellor delivered a eulogy at Perrot’s funeral services in Lafayette, and also spoke to UL’s team about Perrot and about playing in the NCAA tournament prior to Friday’s practice.

"I talked about how it wouldn’t be a bad thing to model yourself after Kim," he said. "What a hard worker and wonderful person she was and how much I loved coaching her.

"I told them you’re in the NCAA Tournament because the committee picked you. You didn’t get here automatically, you were selected. So, when you get there, just play with everything you have."

UL Notebook: The Women’s NCAA edition


IGNORANCE IS BLISS: It’s obviously the first NCAA experience for every member of the Cajun squad, and co-head coach Meredith Hall said that’s probably a good thing.

"I don’t think they know much about all the extra things that are involved with this," she said. "It’s kind of nice to see them go through their same daily routine and not change what they’ve done all year. After everything settled down Monday, you could tell they felt they deserved to be here."

"They’re a little naive," J. Kelley Hall said. "When we got here, they were asking the athletic director (David Walker) if we got a guarantee check for being here."

QUOTABLE: "Our plan is to win. We plan to show people that we do have good players in Lafayette." – Cajun guard Jeanenne Colbert, when asked what the team’s plans were while in Austin.

NOT FOR MARDI GRAS: Marquette senior forward, second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Christina Quaye wore a plastic mask over her face during Friday’s practice. Quaye took an elbow from teammate Efueko Osagie-Landry in a Tuesday practice.

"It’s mostly a protective measure," Golden Eagle coach Terri Mitchell said, "but she took a good one to the nose. It was kind of a sample of what it’s been like in practice. It’s been that physical."

LEAGUE STRENGTH: The Sun Belt has a second team in NCAA Tournament play for the first time since 2001, and also has a team with a single-digit seed for the first time in six years with Middle Tennessee a number five seed in the Dayton Regional and playing at 9 p.m. tonight against Gonzaga in Palo Alto, Calif.

"That says something about the strength of our league and the direction it’s going," Meredith Hall said. "Just to have that second team in there says volumes."

Each of the 10 leagues ranked in the unofficial conference RPI top 10 (the Sun Belt is ninth) got multiple teams into the NCAA Tournament. No league lower than the number 10 spot (the Atlantic 10 is currently 10th) got more than one team into the tournament.