Not all wins are the same but North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell will always remember Tuesday’s 79-63 win over Grambling State at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
It was her 1,000th win as a coach during a career that spans two schools and 43 seasons.
“It means a lot,” Hatchell said. “But numbers don’t mean that much to me. I just want to win the next game. But lately, I’ve been hearing from so many former players, many of them from Francis Marion and UNC were here today. They all brought back so many memories and flashbacks.”
And what made it even sweeter for Hatchell was that the victory came at a place she likes to call her second home. Hatchell has a beach house in Myrtle Beach she likes to call “Blue Heaven.”
UNC visited Myrtle Beach for the 24th straight season, a tradition Hatchell said has been important throughout her career. It’s an annual trek that has helped build women’s basketball, she said. And it’s also promoted the high school Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach. Since 1994, UNC has gone 29-6 in Myrtle Beach.
“There were a lot of special people here for the game today,” Hatchell said. “Being here at Myrtle Beach, the people treat us like gold. It’s really special.”
Hatchell’s first 272 wins came at nearby Francis Marion in Florence, South Carolina. But for the past 32 seasons, she’s called Chapel Hill home, winning 728 games as leader of the Tar Heels. Along the way, Hatchell has won three national titles: NAIA, AIAW and the 1994 NCAA tournament championship on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Charlotte Smith.
Hatchell, a three-time coach of the year, became the fourth coach to reach 1,000 wins, joining Tennessee women’s legend Pat Summitt (1,098), Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski (1,082). Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer is next on the list with 1,017 wins with the Cardinal women.
After the game, T-shirts, hats and posters commemorating the win were given to the players and coaches. Hatchell was surrounded by her team and a mob of assembled media there to document her accomplishment. She also was honored by the city of Myrtle Beach with a proclamation for achieving her milestone win in the town.
“We’re not done,” Hatchell said. “There are more things I want to do. Winning more championships, getting this team back to what we’re used to.”
Later Tuesday night, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma would get his chance to join the 1,000-win club.
Hatchell’s Tuesdays win wasn’t a masterpiece, but UNC (10-2) nevertheless reeled off its eighth straight win since going 2-2 to start the season. They had defeated Washington 90-78 Sunday in their first game in Myrtle Beach.
The Tar Heels are on their longest winning streak since winning nine in a row to begin the 2014-15 season.
Grambling led for much of the first quarter as the Tar Heels seemed uncomfortable in the role of heavy favorite. The Tigers scored first and built a 10-2 lead on UNC before the Tar Heels clamored back to trail by three, 23-19, at the end of the opening quarter.
“We were flat,” Hatchell said. “We called a timeout and talked about it and I substituted. We had three things that weren’t working for us. Our transition defense wasn’t there. We were not being patient enough on offense. But we made some adjustments and they worked. We got the ball in the right spots, and that made the difference.”
UNC finally took their first lead 25-23 on 3-pointer by Leah Church with 9:02 left in the second quarter, but they didn’t hold it for good until Janelle Bailey scored on a stickback to make it 27-25 with about eight minutes left before halftime. Bailey finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
The Tar Heels closed the half on a 9-4 run to take a 44-39 lead at the intermission.
The Tar Heels’ lead finally got to double digits with a three-point play by Jamie Cherry that made it 57-47 with 2:34 left in the third period.
“It feels great to help her go down in history, becoming the third [women’s] coach to reach 1,000 wins,” Cherry said. “It was a perfect ending and I was glad I was able to contribute to the win. When we we finally got the lead, it was a relief.”
Cherry led UNC with 22 points, while Taylor Koenen and Paris Kea each added 14.
From there, UNC was able to make the game somewhat of a runaway. Hatchell was able to clear the bench in the final minute to give all her players a chance to be included in the game statistics.
“One - thousand! One - thousand! One - thousand!” UNC fans chanted to Hatchell in the last minutes of the game.
UNC returns to the friendly confines of Carmichael Arena on Dec. 28 for its next game as it hosts Mercer.