Winning 902 games has not lessened Sylvia Hatchell's intensity on the sidelines.
Winning 902 games has not lessened Sylvia Hatchell's intensity on the sidelines.
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Brownlow: Hatchell Still Going Strong
Release: 02/15/2013
By Lauren Brownlow

The 76-56 win over Wake Forest was perhaps the most uneventful of her 11 ACC wins so far, but head coach Sylvia Hatchell was still standing up and coaching her team - rather loudly - to the end.

As usual, her team switched defenses early and often. Figuring out how to defend Wake Forest's speedy point guard Chelsea Douglas meant they had to do that. Anytime something didn't work, Hatchell switched.

"We kept throwing a lot of different things out there and they got us a couple of times on it, but then we'd switch to something else," Hatchell said, breathlessly ending her rundown of all the different strategies the Tar Heels had tried. "That's like playing chess or checkers or whatever.

"We usually always start in a press. It depends on what they're doing whether we just trap or we match up or we wait and trap when we get down on the other end. We have so many different things, sometimes we really confuse ourselves." She laughed.

And why not? It's almost a certainty at this point that her team will make the NCAA Tournament, as it didn't a year ago. Just as certain as it was that her team was going to beat Wake Forest to move to 11-2 in the league. But that doesn't mean Hatchell was going to stop coaching.

"We still had mental lapses out there at times where we had a big lead, and then we got sloppy and had some mental lapses and didn't take care of the ball, and I really get upset when they do that," Hatchell said. "We're moving along, getting close to Tournament time and we can't be doing that. Again, so much of it now is just mental."

It was win No. 902, because both 900 and 901 came on the road. So afterwards, there was a highlight video shown of some of Hatchell's best moments. But the video was mostly her former players, assistants and even managers congratulating her on the 900-win milestone.

There were coaches: Sylvia Crawley. Edgar Farmer. Charlotte Smith (accompanied, of course, by "The Shot"). Emily Murphy. Lori McBride. Chanel Wright (high school).

Former players, of course. Marion Jones is a name and face everyone knew. But there was also Jennifer Thomas Williams (class of '04, who now works in athletic administration). Dawn Bradley Cooper, who was part of one of Hatchell's first UNC recruiting classes. Former manager Carla Chapman. And Hatchell smiled as broadly for Jones as she did for Chapman.

Hatchell would say later that as the faces flashed on the board, she had flashbacks of her own. Former Boston College head coach Sylvia Crawley's face and voice in particular sparked memories.

Crawley was very raw out of high school and not heavily recruited. But she was the type of player Hatchell can't help but love - tall and athletic. "We recruited her when we were the last place team in the league and no one else offered her a scholarship," Hatchell said. "She was 6-5 and could run, tall, lanky. I remember the first time we put her in a game here, I was praying she could just catch the ball - just catch it.

"But you talk about a kid that worked hard and improved..." Indeed. Crawley ended up being the captain of Hatchell's 1994 national championship team as a senior.

Last - but not least, never least - was the only former Tar Heel it could be. In spite of the dim hotel room lighting wherever she was, Ivory Latta's grin brightened up Carmichael Arena. "Just keep winning," she said. "That's the Carolina way."

When Hatchell spoke to the crowd after the video was over, she barely even mentioned herself. She talked mostly about her current team and how much she loves it. It's been the same in every postgame press conference this year.

"These kids, they play hard, they're fun to be around, they work hard, they're coachable and we're winning," Hatchell said with a grin. "So, life is good."

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