Commentary

Hatchell savors spot on sideline

UNC coach on verge of becoming just third women's coach to win 900 games

Originally Published: February 6, 2013
By Mechelle Voepel | espnW

Sylvia HatchellGrant Halverson/Getty ImagesSylvia Hatchell is in her 38th season as a head coach, including 27 at North Carolina.

To reach a milestone like 900 victories, you really need to relish what you're doing. How much does North Carolina women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell -- who goes for win No. 900 Thursday at Boston College -- enjoy her job? We offer this: She actually loves running summer basketball camps.

Most college coaches do them each year, but some much more grudgingly than others. Hatchell, though, is always excited to see the campers, to watch even the least-skilled youngsters work on getting better, to experience the excitement that they still have about the game.

"She's there when the kids show up, she's eating in the cafeteria with them, she's visible all the time," said her husband, Sammy Hatchell, a fellow hoops coach. "We've been doing camps for over 30 years, and she still loves it."

Camps are just one of the many components to being a head coach, something Hatchell been doing since she started at Francis Marion in South Carolina in 1975. After winning two national championships there (AIAW in 1982, NAIA in 1986), she went to North Carolina for the 1986-87 season.

She won an NCAA championship in 1994 with the Tar Heels and has made two other Final Four appearances. She reached the 899 mark in career victories last week against Florida State but fell short on her first try at 900 Sunday against archrival Duke.

Now she and the Tar Heels go on the road to face the Eagles, which previously were coached by one of Hatchell's players on the '94 title team, Sylvia Crawley. But she resigned last March citing health issues, and Erik Johnson -- who previously was an assistant at BC under Cathy Inglese -- took over the program.

Boston College is 9-12 this season and 3-7 in the ACC. The Eagles have lost five of their past six games, beating NC State on Jan. 31. North Carolina is at 20-3 overall and 8-2 in the ACC.

If Hatchell gets to 900 Thursday, it will happen in Boston, a long way from her home state of North Carolina. But she won't make any fuss about that. The number 900 isn't really what she's concerned with now anyway.

The Tar Heels' next win will be their 21st for the season, and that's the number really on Hatchell's mind. With North Carolina having missed the NCAA tournament last year, Hatchell's primary concern is making sure that doesn't happen again.

"I always said one of Sylvia's biggest attributes is that what you see is what you get," said Sammy, an associate head coach at Shaw, which won the NCAA Division II women's national championship in 2012. "She doesn't put on airs, she's a down-to-earth person. She still loves being around kids, and that helps you feel younger. She loves going to work and enjoys competition.

"She hates to lose, but what she really loves is for the kids to win."

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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