UNC family hopes to cheer coach Hatchell through leukemia battle

October 15, 2013 

Sylvia Hatchell, the effervescent, strong and inspiring coach of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill women’s basketball team, has been a faithful member of the university community for 27 seasons as head coach. Now it’s her turn to have the team and the university community cheer only for her.

The coach faces a leukemia diagnosis, and she’ll temporarily take time off for coaching. It is a frightening thing for anyone, and more difficult, perhaps, for someone in such a public position, whose progress will be monitored by tens of thousands of alums and fans and a state and larger group of all those associated with women’s basketball nationwide.

But the coach is made of strong and determined stuff, and just as she doesn’t accept a defeatist attitude in players, she certainly won’t consider it in herself.

Hatchell noted in her announcement a fortuitous circumstance: She’ll be treated by the doctors of UNC’s famed Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the finest facilities in the United States. The wonders doctors there perform can find many testimonies across the country, so Hatchell’s “utmost confidence” in her doctors is well-justified.

Many’s the fan of women’s basketball who well remembers the Tar Heels’ march to the 1994 national championship, and Hatchell’s eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles. She is one of only three women’s coaches who have won over 900 games (636 victories at UNC-CH) and is known as a master strategist.

But those fans know as well of the coach’s tireless charitable efforts, her willingness to represent the university in non-athletic matters, and the fine image she presents on behalf of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Hatchell can proceed with her treatment knowing she has the support of the university family, and that the stands are figuratively full of people waiting to lead the cheers when she returns to the bench, which all hope will be soon.

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