Sylvia Hatchell’s career at UNC
North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell has resigned, the school said in a press release late Thursday night.
Hatchell and three of her assistant coaches — Andrew Calder, Sylvia Crawley and Bett Shelby — had been suspended with pay since April 1 over concerns from players and others. The school hired the Charlotte-based law firm Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein to investigate the culture of the program.
“The University commissioned a review of our women’s basketball program, which found issues that led us to conclude that the program needed to be taken in a new direction,” North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “It is in the best interests of our University and student-athletes for us to do so. Coach Hatchell agrees, and she offered her resignation today. I accepted it.
“We appreciate her 33 years of service to Carolina and to the community, and we wish her the best. Our focus now is on conducting a search for a new head coach who will build on our great Carolina traditions and promote a culture of excellence.”
Calder, Crawley and Shelby remain on paid administrative leave, according to a school spokesperson.
Six players have transferred from North Carolina’s program in the last five years and there are currently four more in the NCAA transfer portal.
Some players accused Hatchell of using racially insensitive remarks in front of the team and were pressured to play through injuries this past season. In an interview earlier this month, her attorney, Wade Smith, denied those allegations.
Shortly after the news of the allegations, a few of Hatchell’s former players came out in support of her.
“I don’t believe it, not from my experience with Sylvia and her coaching staff,” Rashanda McCants, who played at UNC from 2005 through 2009, said in an interview earlier this month. “She doesn’t even like for you to use profanity.”
But the law firm’s investigation concluded otherwise.
Through 28 interviews of current players and personnel connected to the UNC women’s basketball program, there were three overarching themes.
One was that Hatchell made comments that were racially insensitive, and when confronted by players and staff, she did not respond in a “timely or appropriate manner.”
“The review concluded that Hatchell is not viewed as a racist, but her comments and subsequent response caused many in the program to believe she lacked awareness and appreciation for the effect her remarks had on those who heard them,” the release stated.
The investigation also found that players and medical staff were frustrated with what they perceived as pressure to play before they were medically cleared.
And third, the investigation found that there has been “a breakdown of connectivity between the players and Hatchell.”
Hatchell, 67, has coached at North Carolina since 1986 and is in the national Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. A native of Gastonia, Hatchell is the only women’s basketball coach to win national championships at three different levels — AIAW, NAIA, and NCAA.
Hatchell started her coaching career as the junior varsity women’s coach at Tennessee. After a brief stint at Tennessee, Hatchell coached 11 seasons at Francis Marion in Florence, S.C. She was also an assistant coach for Team USA basketball in 1988.
Hatchell won a NCAA national title in 1994 along with eight ACC championships, the most recent in 2008, and has taken the Tar Heels to three Final Fours.
Hatchell missed the 2013-14 season while undergoing treatment for leukemia. She returned the following year.
Hatchell won 751 games while at UNC, and has won 1,023 games as a head coach overall.
But the Tar Heels have struggled in recent years. They went three seasons without an NCAA tournament appearance from 2016 to 2018. This year’s team went 18-15 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Hatchell, who had one more year left on her contract, received $140,000 in supplemental pay earlier this week for still being employed by the university on April 16.
Wade Smith, Hatchell’s attorney, declined to comment early Friday morning.
“It has been the great honor and privilege of my life to coach at the University of North Carolina,” Hatchell said in a statement. “I want to thank John Swofford for giving me my dream job 33 years ago. The University will always hold a special place in my heart.
“The game of basketball has given me so much, but now it is time for me to step away.”
Hatchell added that she will continue to raise money for the Lineberger Cancer Center to establish a ministry of exercise and recovery for cancer patients, and will push for equal facilities and treatment for women’s athletics.