North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell wins ACC Coach of the Year for the second time
March 2, 2006
By KEITH PARSONS
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Typically, Sylvia Hatchell wanted very little credit for leading top-ranked North Carolina to its most successful regular season ever. Avoiding it now might be a bit difficult.
Hatchell was named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year by the Associated Press on Thursday, edging Maryland's Brenda Frese in voting by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Florida State's Sue Semrau was a distant third.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I've had a lot of great teams," Hatchell said. "Trust me, I know, any coach is only as good as their players. I've got great players, and I've got a great staff. They make me look good."
Hatchell received 33 votes, followed by Frese with 28. It's the second time the 54-year-old Gastonia native has received his honor, with the previous one coming in 1997.
This year, the Tar Heels (26-1) won the regular season ACC title to earn the top seed in the conference tournament for the second year in a row. And for the first time, they reached the top of the AP's women's basketball poll.
"People asked me all year how good this team could be, and I said all along they could be as good as they wanted to be," Hatchell said. "I really feel that way, this is a special group. They all complement each other so well, and the chemistry is great."
Completing a second consecutive season sweep of the Blue Devils didn't hurt that, running North Carolina's winning streak against their Tobacco Road rival to five. Certainly, players such as Ivory Latta and Erlana Larkins had a significant role in doing that, but Hatchell was the guiding force.
She uses an aggressive, fast-paced strategy on offense and defense, helping the Tar Heels wear down opponents and excite fans. Their most recent victory over Duke drew the first advanced sellout for the North Carolina women and required the first ticket distribution for students, faculty and staff at Carmichael Auditorium.
It was special moment for Hatchell's program, as was this award.
"I think it speaks volumes about coach Hatchell and her commitment to the program, and everything she's done for this university," said assistant coach Charlotte Smith-Taylor, one of the stars on North Carolina's NCAA championship team in 1994. "She's put a lot into everything we do, and it's definitely paid off."
Despite her success, Hatchell often gets overlooked around the nation, with Tennessee's Pat Summitt, Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and Duke's Gail Goestenkors drawing most of the attention. Yet Hatchell's achievements stand up against anyone _ she's the only coach to win national titles at the NCAA, NAIA and AIAW levels and is among four active Division I coaches with 700 career victories.
Not that the lack of acclaim bothers her at all.
"I've not really thought much about that," Hatchell said. "My feeling of success is from seeing my players be successful. Winning championships, playing for the ACC, watching my kids have success. That's where I get my satisfaction."
Her players appreciate their low-key coach.
"We all love coach Hatchell and what she's done for us," forward La'Tangela Atkinson said. "We're so happy she got his award. She deserves it."