Hatchell returns to C-N for Eagle Coaches' Appreciation Dinner
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.— The Carson-Newman women's basketball team were visited by a legend Thursday night when University of North Carolina head women's basketball coach, and former Lady Eagle Sylvia Hatchell visited the college Thursday night.
Hatchell was on campus as the featured speaker at the annual Coaches' Banquet for student-athletes, coaches, alumni and friends of the college. In addition to the speech, two auctions were held as fundraisers for the C-N athletic department.
Hatchell was a student at Carson-Newman where she received her Bachelor's degree in Education in 1974. The coaching bug was lit for Hatchell while she was a Lady Eagle and she spent the 1975-76 season on the University of Tennessee's staff as the junior varsity women's basketball coach.
From there she took over the new women's program at Francis Marion University. Hatchell had to build the Francis Marion team from the ground up.
"Francis Marion had just started women's basketball," Hatchell said. "There were no traditions. We had some really good teams that were eventually lot Division I teams. We beat South Carolina and Clemson."
Hatchell led Francis Marion to two national titles, first in 1982 in the AIAW and in 1986 in the NAIA. That was also the year her life would change forever while interviewing for the open coaching position at UNC.
"I told them, 'I don't care what you pay me, I want this job,'" Hatchell said while speaking of determination. "I think that's what got it for me."
Her time at UNC has been fruitful, including a 1994 NCAA Tournament championship. Still, she's never forgotten where she's from. Thursday night, Hatchell got emotional when she returned to the C-N banquet hall with her trophies and awards for the first time since she had received them.
"It's special to be in the same room where I got my trophy my senior year," Hatchell said. "It all started here."
C-N head women's basketball coach Dean Walsh has built a strong relationship with Hatchell. The Tar Heels and Lady Eagles play an annual exhibition game at Chapel Hill, N.C.
"She's such a good friend, colleague and mentor," Walsh said of Hatchell. "She's been a tremendous influence on my career. She practices what she preaches. She's touched thousands of lives."
Hatchell has a gold medal from the 1988 Olympics to go with her three national titles. After 36 years in coaching she still gets excited entering the Smith Center and starting a new season. After finishing 19-11 in 2009-10 and dropping their opening game of the NCAA Tournament to Gonzaga, Hatchell has her team back on track. It will all start in the preseason, where the Tar Heels face off against the Lady Eagles on Nov. 8 in Chapel Hill.
"Last year we made the NCAA Tournament and everybody thought this was a really down year and for us it was," Hatchell said. "We get a scrimmage out of it (playing C-N). Dean plays a style up and down the court that we like to play."
The Lady Eagles begin their exhibition season Nov. 2 at Thompson-Boling Arena when they face the Tennessee Lady Vols. The regular season opens Nov. 13 against USC-Aiken in Greenwood, S.C.