Hatchell looks forward to returning -- next season
Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell says her doctors expect her to be recovered from leukemia and directing the UNC women’s basketball team from the bench next year.
In the meantime, she’s rooting for the Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament, frustrated she’s been sidelined since being diagnosed with the disease in October, and motivated during her chemotherapy treatments and recovery process by the thought of getting back to work on a daily basis with the standout players she recruited.
“This has been one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do because it is a coach’s dream to have a team that has the potential that this team has,” Hatchell said.
“They are such great kids, and extremely talented. There are so many things that I want to work with them on, and try to implement, and see how good they can become,” Hatchell said.
“It has been my motivation to get back out there with them. The doctors say that I am fine, and will be healthy and more than ready to coach them next year, and I look forward to having another championship team,” Hatchell said.
With a 932-330 career record, including 660-250 with eight ACC titles in 28 seasons at UNC, Hatchell has won national championships in the AIAW, NAIA, and, with Carolina, in the NCAA in 1994.
A three-time national coach of the year, the Gastonia native is one of only three women’s coaches with 900 wins, and was inducted in 2013 into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. She also is a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hatchell said she sees improvements in the Tar Heels every time she watches them.
“They have done an outstanding job. They swept Duke and N.C. State in the regular season, Maryland in the ACC Tournament, and Nebraska, who just won the Big 10 Championship,” Hatchell said.
“As you can see, they beat numerous teams ranked in the Top 10,” she said. Going forward, the Tar Heels need to develop a consistency that will come with experience, she said.
“Now we just need to relax and play with a sense of urgency, assertive and aggressive offense and defense, and play Carolina basketball” in the NCAA Tournament, Hatchell said. No. 4 UNC hosts No. 5 Michigan State at 7 tonight in Carmichael Arena for a trip to the Sweet 16.
While there are many scenarios that could have defused the Tar Heels’ season with the disruption of a legendary coach battling a life-threatening disease that kept her out of the daily routine, Hatchell has an explanation for why UNC didn’t merely hold the course but has excelled this season.
“First of all, I want to bring honor to my entire coaching staff and team who have done a tremendous job. That’s why it is so important to have the right team members on your staff,” she said.
“Coach Calder has been coaching with me for the last 28 years, and he is without a doubt the best coach in the country. He has basketball knowledge, and his work ethic is impeccable. In my book, he should be the Coach of the Year, and he is my Coach of the Year,” Hatchell said.
“Let me say also that having Ivory Latta has made a big difference. She has played on our team and has done everything our players want to do,” she said.
“I am so very proud of how Coach Calder has blended a growing team with no seniors, and blended them in a way that has made our University of North Carolina so very proud off and on the court,” Hatchell said. “Again, I want to bring honor to all of our coaches, staff and players.”