North Carolina has put its women’s basketball coaching staff on paid administrative leave amid an investigation into “issues raised by student-athletes and others,” the school announced Monday in a news release.
Those suspended are head coach Sylvia Hatchell, who just concluded her 33rd season leading the Tar Heels, and her three assistant coaches, per The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.
The university did not specify the “issues,” but said a Charlotte, N.C., law firm “will conduct the review and assess the culture of the women’s basketball program and the experience of our student-athletes.”
Hatchell has been the head coach at UNC since 1986 and has led the Tar Heels to three NCAA Final Four appearances — 1994, 2006 and 2007 — and the NCAA championship in 1994.
The program has made 23 appearances in the NCAA Tournament during her tenure. On March 23, the Tar Heels were eliminated by California in the first round of this year’s tournament, 92-72.
Hatchell, 67, has a 751-325 record in 33 seasons at North Carolina. She missed one season — 2013-14 — as she battled leukemia. She spent the first 11 seasons of her career at Francis Marion College in South Carolina, finishing 272-80.
A 2013 enshrinee into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, she is the winningest women’s basketball coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
Hatchell also is one of three active coaches in NCAA women’s basketball with 1,000 wins — Stanford’s Trish VanDerveer and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma are the others — and the only women’s college basketball coach to win national championships at three levels: AIAW, NAIA and NCAA.
Hatchell issued a statement Monday afternoon via her attorney:
“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” her statement read. “My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life.
“I love each and every one of the players I’ve coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me. I love them all.
“Of course, I will cooperate fully in this review. I look forward to a prompt conclusion of this matter and the continuation of our very successful women’s basketball program.”
In recent years, Hatchell’s program has been plagued by transfers and the specter of the long NCAA investigation into potential academic fraud across a number of sports at North Carolina. The NCAA issued its findings in October 2017 with no penalties assessed.
Hatchell’s assistants are associate head coach Andrew Calder, who has been on the staff for 33 years and took over in 2013-14 when Hatchell underwent medical treatment; assistant coach Sylvia Crawley, a former North Carolina player; and Bett Shelby, the recruiting coordinator.
—Field Level Media