North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell is under investigation for allegedly making racist remarks and pressuring players to compete despite serious injuries, according to a report Thursday from the Washington Post.
The Hall of Fame coach allegedly told players they would be “hanged from trees with nooses” if they failed to improve, according to the newspaper, which cites interviews with seven people who have knowledge of the investigation. Six of those interviewed were parents of players on the team.
Hatchell’s attorney, Wade Smith, denied the allegations during an interview with the Post.
“She said, ‘They’re going to take a rope and string us up, and hang us out to dry,’” Smith said. “There is not a racist bone in her body. ... A very high percentage of the people who have played for her and who love her are African-American women. She is a terrific coach and a truly world-class human being.”
North Carolina placed the longtime coach and the rest of her staff on paid leave on Monday as it investigated issues raised by players.
Hatchell released a statement on Monday, reading, in part: “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.”
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.
—Field Level Media