|'You feel like you've always got a great chance at winning with her at the helm,' guard Becky Hammon says of coach Pokey Chatman, who has signed a contract extension with Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje|
By Paul Nilsen
Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje have been given the perfect tonic ahead of the big tip-off in Istanbul after securing a deal to retain the services of head coach Pokey Chatman for another season.
The news comes as a huge boost for everyone associated with the four-time EuroLeague Women champions since Chatman has been one of the main thrusts behind the continuation of their most recent success.
The play-caller will be joined once again by assistant Christie Sides and speaking after a pre-Final Eight departure dinner and the signing of her new contract, Chatman expressed her delight at prolonging her stay in the Russian capital.
"I'm excited to extend my time here at Sparta&K! I've had the privilege of coaching some of the best players in the world while enjoying tremendous success, both on the scoreboard, but of equal importance, off the court too," said Chatman
"Anna (Arkhipova Von Kalmanovic) has continued to put the Sparta&K stamp on this club and I'm ecstatic she wants me to continue at the helm.
"This truly is a special place, that has helped me to grow as a coach and student of the game."
The respect that the club has for Chatman in striking a new agreement ahead of this week's tournament in Istanbul is clear to see, with Executive Director Arkhipova Von Kalmanovich and General Manager Steve Costalas both taking time out to pay tribute to their head coach.
"We love Pokey both as a coach and as a person" explained Arkhipova Von Kalmanovich.
"It is a pleasure to have her one more season and I only wish that we could have her for as many years as she will be coaching."
Costalas added: "What especially pleased me is the fact that even though Pokey was pursued by some of the other teams competing in the Final Eight, she preferred to ‘stay home' with Sparta&K and I especially thank her for that.
"Pokey's love for Sparta&K and our admiration for her personality and dedication made this signing much easier than expected.
"At the same time, I promise soon that we will make another announcement which again will bring joy to our fans and sorrow to our opponents."
It's news which also left a big impression on the players and added to the feel-good factor heading into the Final Eight, with veteran star Becky Hammon summarising the reaction to the announcement from the players' standpoint.
"In women's basketball, Sparta&K and championships go together and I think Pokey has been at the heart of so many winning seasons!
"Every time we as players go into a game, we feel prepared with schemes and strategies on how to win the game.
"She can flat out coach" continued Hammon.
"You feel like you've always got a great chance at winning with her at the helm. I've loved playing for her, and so excited to hear she'll be here next year!"
Sparta&K and Chatman will pit their wits against Ros Casares, Wisla Can Pack and their great rivals UMMC Ekaterinburg in Group B as they bid to make a quite remarkable sixth consecutive EuroLeague Women Final.