UNC’s Hatchell selected for Naismith Hall of Fame
It takes a special circumstance for North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell to be rendered speechless. Learning she would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame certainly qualified.
Hatchell had just parked at a local supermarket and was on her way to pick up lunch Wednesday when she received a call telling her that she had been selected for basketball’s most prestigious honor.
“I didn’t ask many questions because I was just overwhelmed and I couldn’t really speak,” Hatchell said from Atlanta on Monday after the 2013 class officially had been announced. “I was like, ‘OK, is this a dream? Are you going to wake up? Is this for real? Is this really happening?’ All that stuff.
“I sat in the car for a little while because it was hard to even comprehend. I thought I was going to have to call the office and get somebody to come drive me back to campus.”
Hatchell’s selection came in the same year she posted her 900th career victory. Her 908 wins are the second-most in women’s college basketball history, behind only former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt’s 1,098, and she is the only coach to win national championships at three different levels (AIAW, NAIA and NCAA).
Hatchell has won 636 games in 27 seasons in UNC, including the 1994 NCAA title and eight ACC championships. Hatchell’s career also includes 11 seasons at Francis Marion in Florence, S.C., where she won national titles in 1982 and 1986.
Hatchell was named the national coach of the year in 1994, 2006 and 2008, was an assistant coach on the 1988 Summer Olympics gold medal team and is a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
But she said the Naismith honor tops all the other awards. She will be the 10th women’s basketball coach to be inducted.
“In the basketball world, you can’t get any higher than the Naismith,” Hatchell said. “This is as high as you can go.”
Hatchell joins coaches Guy Lewis, Rick Pitino and Jerry Tarkanian and players Bernard King, Gary Payton and Dawn Staley as members of the 2013 class. They were scheduled to be honored at halftime of the men’s NCAA championship game Monday night in Atlanta.
To be elected, finalists required 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee. Hatchell made it on the first try.
Hatchell was getting her graduate degree at Tennessee when King was a player there. She was reunited with the four-time NBA All-Star on Sunday night.
“He looked at me and said, ‘You got in the first time?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘It took me three times to get in,’” Hatchell said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh gosh, this is even more special because he was such a great player at Tennessee and for New York.’”
Five direct elect selections also were announced — Roger Brown (ABA Committee), Edwin B. Henderson (Early African-American Pioneers Committee), Oscar Schmidt (International Committee), Richard Guerin (Veterans Committee) and Russ Granik (Contributor Direct Election Committee).
Hatchell said she also met Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Artis Gilmore at the dinner Sunday night — all players that Hatchell and her classmates idolized growing up.
“I’m getting ready to go to a high school reunion, and I’ll see all these guys I grew up with and growing up we all wanted to be like them,” Hatchell said. “And I said now I can say, ‘Hey, I have something in common with them.’ It was quite a dinner last night. The who’s who just kept coming.”
Hatchell is the 10th person with ties to UNC to be inducted, joining coaches Roy Williams, Dean Smith, Frank McGuire, Larry Brown and Ben Carnevale, player/coach Billy Cunningham and players Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Robert McAdoo.
UNC will become the only school with active men’s and women’s basketball coaches that are both in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
The official ceremony will take place Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass.
“For a basketball guru like me, this is probably the next thing to heaven,” Hatchell said.