Each Sunday during the 2016-17 school year, the Carson-Newman athletic communications department will shine a spotlight on a current or former Carson-Newman student-athlete looking to tell a tale of life outside of his or her respective sport or a story of historical value to the Eagle athletic program.
Audio Interview: Sylvia Hatchell
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.— As the head coach of three national championship teams, Carson-Newman Hall of Famer and current North Carolina women's basketball coach, Sylvia Hatchell, has witnessed a lot throughout her career in a number of different places.
The longtime hoops coach enters her 31st year at the helm for Tar Heels this season but acknowledged the storied career would not have been possible without the lessons and instruction she received at Carson-Newman and said so during an interview with the Eagle Sports Network in 2014.
"I learned so many things from people at Carson-Newman about putting a group of people together and exceeding expectations," Hatchell said. "Never let someone tell you that you can't do something. You can always do something. I've exceeded expectations because of the mentality that I developed when I was at Carson-Newman."
As an Eagle, Hatchell was a dual-sport athlete on both the volleyball and women's basketball teams. Almost immediately after her playing days were over in 1974, the coaching veteran began her professional career as a junior varsity basketball coach at the University of Tennessee before going to Francis Marion for 11 seasons. In 1986, Hatchell was given the reins of the women's basketball program at the University of North Carolina.
Overall in her career, Hatchell has a 975-358 record, third in the history of women's basketball behind the late Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Stanford's Tara Vanderveer. The instructor has won a national championship at the AIAW level in 1982 and the NAIA level in 1986—both with Francis Marion-- and in the NCAA in 1994 at North Carolina.
Aside from being a three-time national champion, Hatchell has been inducted into five different Hall of Fame's including Carson-Newman's in 1998, Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004, both the North and South Carolina's Sports Hall of Fames in 2009 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
The laundry list of accomplishments continues as the former Eagle has been named the National Coach of the Year twice while at North Carolina (1994 and 2006), the Atlantic Coastal Conference Coach of the Year three times (1997, 2006 and 2008) and the College Basketball Coach of the Year in 1995 by Athletes International Ministries.
Hatchell also served as the president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association during the 1996-97 season.
On Wednesday, Nov. 3, Hatchell had the privilege to once again welcome Carson-Newman into Carmichael Arena to compete in an exhibition game ahead of both program's season-openers. The contest was the ninth between the two programs in the exhibition format as the Tar Heels have won in every matchup.
Eagle coach Mike Mincey appreciates the opportunities Hatchell has given his program over the years and notes that the Division I coach is an icon and one his players always look forward to meeting and competing against.
"It's always an honor to go up against coach Hatchell. She is a Hall of Famer and has won national championships both at our level and Division I. Not many coaches can say that," Mincey said. "She has been gracious and generous to our program over the years at Carson-Newman. Even though she has moved on to bigger and better things, she has continued to remember us by giving back to our program. She certainly gives back to our university by coming back to speak on occasion. We are very grateful for her and for her allowing us to come over here and play these games."
After the game, Hatchell once again met with the Eagle club and spoke highly of the talent that appears to be on this year's squad.
"I just told them how good they were because they gave us all that we could handle and I told them that they could be in the Final Four," Hatchell said minutes after the final buzzer. "They played well, they played smart and they have great shooters and team chemistry. I was so proud of Carson-Newman tonight."
Part of the message Hatchell made sure to make a point of during the talk was of the quality education Carson-Newman presents to its students and athletes in all aspects of life. The tenured coach, who still sports a senior season portrait of the 1973-74 C-N women's basketball team on her office desk, mentioned on more than one occasion how special of a place the university is and how the experiences she took from her time as an Eagle still hold true today.
"There is just a spirit, an atmosphere and a community-type environment there. So many times we take for granted where we went to school and our relationships with people and friendships and everything like that," Hatchell said. "Carson-Newman is a place where Eagles are trained and released to soar. When you go in there, you may only be a bird of some other type, but you leave an Eagle and are released to soar."
Though time is of the essences for any Division I coach, Hatchell makes it a point to stay dialed into what is happening at Mossy Creek. The Hall of Fame coach has obviously made a plethora of connections over the years at the various levels she has visited, and with those connections, Hatchell makes sure to brag on Carson-Newman when the opportunity is presented.
"I keep up with a lot of people who are there and a lot of people who have been there. I check all of the scores and for years and years I brag about Carson-Newman, especially the football team," Hatchell noted. "Of course, we have some people on our staff that went to Wingate, Mars Hill, Presbyterian and other places like that where Carson-Newman always beats up on. I rub it in a little bit and brag about Carson-Newman."
Hatchell concluded her speech to the Carson-Newman women's basketball team by saying that as proud as she is of her alma mater, the university is equally as proud of her and the other graduates who walk across the stage each and every year. It's that balancing act of respect and humbleness that go hand and hand for so many C-N alums who are making a difference in the world just as Hatchell is in college basketball.
"There are many Carson-Newman graduates who are out there soaring and making the university proud and they are very, very proud of Carson-Newman themselves," Hatchell said. "Any time I am somewhere and it comes up that I went to Carson-Newman, I am so proud to tell that story. What a special place this university has in my life."
As the Carson-Newman women's basketball team rears up for its season-opener on Friday, Nov. 11, Hatchell and North Carolina will be gearing up for another trek back to the Sweet 16 where the Tar Heels fizzled out in 2015. Though in two different places, a sense of pride and humility always keeps Hatchell connected to her collegiate home at Carson-Newman.