Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 15, 2013
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell has been diagnosed with leukemia.
In a release from the school Monday, Hatchell said she would temporarily step away from her coaching duties to focus on treatment.
“I will remain very much involved with my team and day-to-day operations here at UNC and expect to return to my sideline responsibilities as soon as possible,” Hatchell said in a statement. “My veteran staff and team will be well prepared and meet any challenges until my return. Don’t forget I am a Tar Heel woman!”
Hatchell, 61, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last month. She’s preparing for her 28th season with the Tar Heels and has 908 career victories, making her one of only three head coaches in the sport to win 900 games.
Hatchell has led UNC to the 1994 NCAA championship, three Final Fours and eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships.
“Sylvia has our complete support and is in our thoughts and prayers for a full recovery,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “Sylvia is a fighter and her enduring spirit will aid her greatly.”
Longtime assistant Andrew Calder will lead the program while Hatchell is away. He has been on Hatchell’s staff throughout her tenure, which includes six 30-win seasons.
In addition, former Campbell men’s head coach Billy Lee will be added as an assistant coach on a temporary basis during Hatchell’s absence. Lee has been the team’s director of video and scouting, and special assistant to the head coach.
The Tar Heels won 29 games last season before losing at Delaware in the second round of the NCAA tournament. They lost their top two scorers, but sophomore Xylina McDaniel (11.3 points, 7.1 rebounds) returns while Hatchell’s staff brought in a recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally by ESPN — featuring McDonald’s All-Americans Diamond DeShields, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington.
Hatchell said she will be treated at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Care Center on the Chapel Hill campus. Dr. Pete Voorhees, an oncologist and associate professor in UNC’s School of Medicine, will oversee her treatment.
“Sylvia remains strong and in good spirits,” Voorhees said in a statement. “She is physically and mentally tough, and this will serve her well on her journey. We are optimistic that she will do well.”
Roy Williams, the Tar Heels’ Hall of Fame men’s coach, said in a statement that he was “heartbroken” for Hatchell’s family.
“I know how much Sylvia loves to coach and compete with her team so any time that she misses will be difficult,” Williams said. “But she’s tough and she will fight this with everything she has. All of us at Carolina and all of her friends in the coaching community will support her 100 percent in this fight.”