UNC’s Hatchell: Hall selection ‘fires me up’
Sylvia Hatchell said that being elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame is the ultimate achievement for a basketball coach.
Now she’s received the honor, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to start winding down her career.
“I feel great, I couldn’t be any healthier and I’ve got as much passion now as I’ve ever had,” Hatchell said Tuesday.
After being formally introduced as part of the Naismith Class of 2013 during the men’s championship game Monday night in Atlanta, Hatchell was back at North Carolina on Tuesday afternoon. As her players conducted shooting drills on the court at Carmichael Arena, Hatchell spoke in an interview room about what the most recent honor meant to her.
“This is something you dream of,” Hatchell said. “If you have a passion for basketball, this is the next best thing to being in heaven. To be honest, this was on my bucket list.”
Hatchell has 908 career wins, the second-most in Division I women’s basketball history behind former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, and is the only coach to win national championships at three different levels. The Gastonia native won the 1982 AIAW and 1986 NAIA titles during her first head coaching job at Francis Marion, and then led UNC to the 1994 NCAA title when Charlotte Smith hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the final.
“I kid Charlotte all the time about (that) she made the shot that changed my life, and it really did,” Hatchell said. “This is probably an example of that. Without that championship, this probably would not have happened.”
As UNC gears up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that title, Hatchell said she is looking forward to adding to it.
“Someone asked me now that you’ve gotten the Naismith, what’s left?” Hatchell said. “I said, ‘How about a few more championships.’”
The Tar Heels graduate three starters off a team that finished 29-8 this past season but bring in the No. 1 recruiting class, which includes four of ESPN’s top 25 recruits in the Class of 2013. All four of those prospects called Hatchell on the same day last spring to tell her they were heading to UNC, which Hatchell called “the single best one day in recruiting in the history of women’s basketball.”
Hatchell received a similar call last Wednesday, when a Naismith official informed her she was being selected.
“I’m like, ‘OK, am I going to wake up, is this for real?’” Hatchell said. “I couldn’t really talk, I was in such shock.”
After the Naismith class finally was announced on Monday — the group includes fellow coaches Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian and Guy Lewis — Hatchell spent the rest of the day charging her phone constantly as well-wishes from colleagues and former players came in.
Hatchell hasn’t quite caught up yet — a message from Marion Jones was waiting in her office Tuesday — but she already is looking ahead. Hatchell has set up practice plans for the fall and is eager to add to her résumé.
“This fires me up even more,” Hatchell said. “I want to do even more than what I’ve already done.”