Sharon Chatman, first women's basketball coach at De Anza, passes away after athletic and judicial legacy

Sharon Chatman, second from left, and friends take part in an event put on by Chatman's nonprofit Building Peaceful Families. Chatman posted an amazing 61-3 record from 1974-76 at De Anza College. She later became a Superior Court judge, leaving a strong legacy. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Peterson and San Jose Spotlight).
Sharon Chatman, second from left, and friends take part in an event put on by Chatman's nonprofit Building Peaceful Families. Chatman posted an amazing 61-3 record from 1974-76 at De Anza College. She later became a Superior Court judge, leaving a strong legacy. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Peterson and San Jose Spotlight).

(Sharon Chatman was the first women's basketball coach at De Anza College from 1974-76 and had a two-year record of 61 wins and 3 losses. She coached two Conference Championship teams and won two State Championships. Subsequently, she coached women’s basketball at San Jose State for ten years. Chatman was inducted into the SJSU Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 and the De Anza College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. She retired from her basketball career to pursue her Juris Doctor at the University of California Hastings College of Law and graduated in 1989. After graduation from law school, Chatman accepted a position at the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor where she stayed for ten years. Gov. Gray Davis appointed Sharon to her post as Superior Court judge in 2000 — one of Davis’ first appointments. Below is a wonderful tribute from San Jose Spotlight.)

By Madelyn Reese
San Jose Spotlight

SAN JOSE - Her hugs emanated warmth and love, her smile could light up a room and above all, friends recall, Sharon Chatman could motivate almost anyone to be a better person.

Chatman, a retired Santa Clara County judge and renowned former San Jose State University basketball coach, died in late December at home from complications due to a brain tumor. She was 73.

Her friends — and there were many — remembered Chatman as someone who always made them feel special.

Goddaughter Michelle Peterson grew up with Chatman as a sort of “second mom.” Her mother and Chatman were best friends.

“She was just full of life,” Peterson said. “You could be in a room with 100 people and she would make you feel like you were the only person in the room.”

Chatman was born and raised in Bakersfield and went to California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, where she played point guard on the women’s basketball team. Chatman fell in love with the sport, which lead to two decades of coaching.

After graduation, Chatman first coached basketball at Andrew P. Hill High School in San Jose, then at De Anza College in Cupertino.

In 1976, she became the head women’s basketball coach at San Jose State University, where she coached until 1986, amassing a 142-121 winning record. Chatman was inducted into the SJSU Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Chatman retired from her basketball career to pursue her Juris Doctor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, and graduated in 1989. She was admitted to the California State Bar that December.

Gov. Gray Davis appointed Chatman to her post as Superior Court judge in 2000 — one of Davis’ first appointments.

Judge Erica Yew, who was appointed by Davis to the Santa Clara County Superior Court in 2001, remembers Chatman took her job seriously, but also knew when to have fun. And she wasn’t satisfied with just being a judge, Yew said.

“She wanted to change the situation that a lot of her defendants and victims found themselves in when they came into court,” Yew said. Soon, Chatman created a special court calendar for domestic violence offenders who also struggled with mental health.

As a condition of probation, offenders must complete a yearlong course without missing more than three classes. Chatman brought together multiple county departments to work with offenders so they could finish their requirements and not end up back in court.

As a regular part of her job, Chatman would preside over domestic violence cases and arraignments. But she had a way of making even that courtroom experience unique.

“She would have them raise their hand, and give them kudos, or sometimes a little prize if they got the answer right just to make sure that they were paying attention to her arraignment speech when they were being advised of their rights,” Yew said.

(Click here to read the remainder of the tribute from San Jose Spotlight)