Hatchell led her Tar Heel team through their first full-team practice Monday afternoon, putting her club through a two-hour practice that focused on a handful of situations and drills.
After an offseason that saw Hatchell get inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in early September, she was happy to get back on the court. The familiar sounds of a basketball hitting the hardwood and the screeching of Nike basketball shoes on the Carmichael playing surface was music to her ears.
"I'm excited to be back on the court. This was the first time I was able to be with [the team] after being on the road recruiting and other stuff with the hall of fame over the last few weeks.
"I'm really excited for the potential this group has," said Hatchell. "They just need some time to grow."
Hatchell and her staff expects to see this team playing the usual aggressive and up temp style that has become the calling card of this program.
"I think they're going to get better and better as they learn what we want them to do, and we figure out what they can do as players," Hatchell said.
The buzz around the program building up to today's practice has been focused on two distinct off-season story lines. One is the arrival of the much-anticipated group of four freshmen that made up the top recruiting class in the country last year.
"They're learning a lot right now which is expected, but once in a while you see them do something and you just say 'wow,'" said Hatchell.
"On the other hand, the group we have returning is the best they've ever been because they're healthy for the first time."
The other big story, the return of former Tar Heel All-America Ivory Latta as an assistant coach for Carolina. The current Washington Mystic All-Star guard was thrilled to get her second job underway after finishing her WNBA season a few weeks ago.
"I'm just soaking everything in right now," said Latta. I saw my parents briefly and then I knew I had to get back up here, get ready for the season, and get out here for the girls.
"My family understands this is my job. This is what I want to be doing right now."
It didn't take long for Latta to make her presence felt on the court as she raised her voice a few times in making sure everyone was on the same page.
"I loved the intensity of the first practice," said Latta. Even though I'm an assistant coach I still have that point guard frame of mind. I was telling the guards today to be more vocal. Make your teammates understand and they will follow you."
Hatchell loves the fact that Latta brings that winners mentality back to the Carolina program.
"She has been to and done everything these players want and she can say it from a players perspective," said Hatchell. "But at the same time can also relate back to me and the coaching staff.
"The love and excitement of the game she puts forth is really special."
road to the finals starts today! 1st practice, leggooooooo!— Megan Buckland (@MeganBuckland3) September 30, 2013
Practice continues this week as the Heels enter the month of October. The first exhibition will take place the day before Halloween on the 30th against Carson Newman at 6 p.m.