University of North Carolina women's basketball head coach Sylvia Hatchell has leukemia and will step away from her on-the-court coaching responsibilities, UNC said Monday.
"I am going to be involved in a treatment plan established by Dr. Pete Voorhees, medical oncologist, and his team from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center," Hatchell said in a statement.
"I will remain very much involved with my team and day-to-day operations here at UNC and expect to return to my sideline responsibilities as soon as possible. My veteran staff and team will be well-prepared and meet any challenges until my return."
The announcement was a shock in a sports community that well remembers N.C. State coach Kay Yow's long battle with breast cancer. Yow died in 2009 at the age of 66. Yow and Hatchell were extremely close friends.
Hatchell was an assistant coach on the U.S. Olympic team in 1988 when Yow was the head coach.
Hatchell, 61, had a cancer scare in 2000 and has been a strong supporter of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Care Center since then. She has a blueberry patch in Black Mountain and allows people to pick blueberries there on the honor system and then make a donation to the Lineberger Center. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, believed to help prevent cancer.
Hatchell, 61, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., last month. This is her 39th season as a collegiate head coach and her 28th with the Tar Heels. She has an overall record of 908-321. Hatchell currently stands second in all-time wins with 908 and is first among active coaches.
She has led the Tar Heels to a 636-241 mark, won AIAW, NAIA and NCAA national championships, including the 1994 NCAA title with UNC, and claimed eight ACC Tournament titles.
Associate head coach Andrew Calder will direct the team during Hatchell's absence. Calder is also in his 28th season with the Tar Heels. He's been a part of six 30-win seasons and three Final Fours, including the national championship in 1994.
Billy Lee, UNC's director of video and scouting and special assistant to the head coach, will temporarily be added to the coaching staff so that the Tar Heels may have a full number of coaches on the court at practice. Lee was the men's head coach at Campbell for 18 seasons. He is in his third year at Carolina.
Reaction to the announcement on Sylvia Hatchell:
"I'm heartbroken for Sylvia, Sammy and Van. I know how much Sylvia loves to coach and compete with her team so any time that she misses will be difficult. But she's tough and she will fight this with everything she has." - UNC men's coach Roy Williams
"Sylvia has our complete support and is in our thoughts and prayers for a full recovery. Sylvia is a fighter and her enduring spirit will aid her greatly."- UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham
"She was actually one of the coolest people I've talked to as a coach. She's like really, really down to earth. She tells you what she thinks, no matter what." - UNC junior Robbie Harms
"I think that she's a wonderful human being, that she's been a great coach, that she's the type of person that you always hoped that your children would have if they were going to have a coach." - UNC professor Hodding Carter