UNC’s Hatchell enters S.C. Hall of Fame
By Pete Iacobelli
COLUMBIA, S.C. ó Two halls of fame and an honorary doctorate. Sounds like the perfect way to cap a stellar career.
Only North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell isn’t heading anywhere except back to the bench to continue upgrading the women’s game and perhaps adding another title or two.
Hatchell was among the newest ó and busiest ó inductees to the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame honored Monday. She was joined by former Detroit defensive lineman Robert Porcher, who played at South Carolina State and then for the Detroit Lions. Also inducted were former South Carolina basketball players Skip Harlicka and Jack Thompson, ex-NASCAR driver Cotton Owens, former Clemson baseball player Ty Cline, longtime high school coach Bobby Giles and Herman Helms, the late sports editor for The (Columbia) State newspaper.
For Hatchell, the honor comes less than a week after similar ceremonies for her inclusion in the state of North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Even earlier on May 9, Hatchell was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Francis Marion University, where she began her successful career with two small-school national championships.
She’s been glad to remember and reminisce. However, the 57-year-old coach made one thing very clear.
“I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon,” she said. “I want that big one again.”
And on the way, she hopes to refine and improve the up-tempo game she first got geared up at Francis Marion in Florence.
Hatchell’s teams won at least 20 games 10 times in her 11 seasons. In 1982, she captured the AIAW small college division title, then added the NAIA championship four years later with a team that went 36-2 ó and caught the attention of North Carolina administrators looking for a winning coach.
Hatchell, from Gastonia, started there the next season and has become one of school’s coaching treasures. She’s won 507 games at North Carolina, a run that included the 1994 NCAA title.
Hatchell’s rarely forgotten that it started in the South Carolina’s tobacco rich PeeDee region. That’s why she had tears in her eyes two weeks ago as she marched in for the school’s graduation ceremony, her team’s championship banners fluttering above.
“They were my foundation,” Hatchell said humbly.
Hatchell hasn’t sat still since then, pushing her teams to play faster and forcing top-level opponents to recruit the most skilled, smartest athletes or fall far behind.
The women’s game has made extraordinary strides since she started her head coaching career in 1975 ó and Hatchell’s pushing for more.
“The women’s game has come a long, long way,” Hatchell said. “But, I’m always looking ahead. I’m always looking at how to make the game better.”
And she’s got a few ideas about that.
Hatchell wants to see women’s college basketball add a center court time rule so teams can’t walk upcourt during its allotted 30 seconds.
“These games in the 40s and 50s, that’s like watching paint dry,” she said.
Hatchell also hopes those who oversee the game understand the chance they have to increase exposure through enhanced TV contracts and prime-time showdown opportunities.
She thinks there must be improved training so rising young coaches learn to be educators and not just tacticians who scream out plays.
“As we go through this process, the main thing is keeping the integrity of the true sport,” Hatchell said.