North Carolina's Hatchell Tabbed 2008 ACC Women's Basketball Coach of the Year
March 5, 2008
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Sylvia Hatchell has proudly proclaimed for years that her North Carolina program does things differently than others. This season certainly proved that.
The Tar Heels entered the year trying to replace graduated stars Ivory Latta and Camille Little, who led them to three straight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles and consecutive Final Fours. But while many expected that would cause them to take a step back, the Tar Heels instead had the school's first unbeaten regular season in league play while again ranking among the nation's elite.
Now, with her team heading into the league tournament as the top seed for the third time in four seasons, Hatchell has been named the ACC coach of the year for the third time.
"It probably actually exceeds (my expectations)," Hatchell said of the season. "People expected us to go down, but we haven't. We're actually better in some areas."
Hatchell was the runaway choice for the award in results released Wednesday. She received 40 of 49 votes from members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, while Virginia's Debbie Ryan was second with seven votes after leading Cavaliers back to the Top 25 for the first time in four seasons.
With freshman Cetera DeGraffenreid at point guard, seniors Erlana Larkins and LaToya Pringle anchoring the front line and junior Rashanda McCants roaming the court, this year's Tar Heels (27-2, 14-0 ACC) were deep and balanced. They swept Duke by an average margin of 24 points and beat Maryland 97-86 in double overtime, a game that proved to be the only thing separating the second-ranked Tar Heels and fifth-ranked Terrapins (29-2, 13-1) in the league standings.
The Tar Heels' only losses were on the road against No. 1 Connecticut and No. 3 Tennessee - which was No. 1 at the time.
North Carolina leads the nation in scoring (88 points) and blocks (7.2) per game, while leading the ACC in scoring margin (24 points), rebounding (47.6) and field-goal percentage defense (35.5 percent). The Tar Heels have done it with a frenetic style that mixes plenty of aggressive perimeter pressure with an always-keep-running offense.
That pace has become faster and faster in Hatchell's 22 years at North Carolina, where she was 506 of her 778 career victories. Hatchell is quick to credit her staff of longtime assistant Andrew Calder, Tracey Williams-Johnson and former Tar Heel All-American Charlotte Smith - who hit the last-second 3-pointer to give Hatchell an NCAA title in 1994 - a group that has been together for six seasons.
These days, Hatchell talks as much about wanting her team to play an exciting style and have fun as she does about Xs and Os. It's a formula that keeps working.
"I feel like when people are enjoying what they're doing they have their heart into it more," Hatchell said. "We play a lot of kids and when you play a lot of kids there are smiles on faces and everybody feels like they're contributing.
"They're just great kids and they play well together. They make me look good."
The voting breakdown for the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball coach of the year, as cast by 49 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association:
Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina (40)