Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Life & Basketball Coach Battling Leukemia Tar Heels' Hatchell Seeks March Return

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Life & Basketball Coach Battling Leukemia Tar Heels' Hatchell Seeks March Return

Article excerpt

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Sylvia Hatchell is fighting to get back to her North Carolina women's basketball team as quickly as possible.

This recently inducted Naismith Hall of Fame coach has been away from the sideline since October while receiving treatment for leukemia. She spent a month in the hospital for the first round of chemotherapy with more ahead as she holds out hope of returning in time for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

"You don't realize, especially after all this time, how much something means to you until you don't have it," Hatchell said.

"It was like a tsunami hit me and, all of a sudden, it's taken away. But that's my motivation, to get back out there."

Hatchell, 61, said she feels great and even attended North Carolina's win Saturday against High Point, the first time she has watched her No. 10 Tar Heels play in person this season.

She will return to the hospital Friday for her next five-day round of chemotherapy, the second of at least three and maybe four "consolidation" sessions to complete her treatment. Her chances of returning this season depend largely on how her immune system recovers each time.

Dr. Pete Voorhees, the oncologist overseeing her treatment at UNC's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said recently that physicians were "extremely pleased" with her progress.

"I haven't had one test come back and knock me down, so the only thing I've got against me is my age," Hatchell said, with a laugh.

In her 28th season at North Carolina, she has more than 900 career victories, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles, three Final Four appearances and the 1994 NCAA championship on a distinguished resume.

While longtime assistant Andrew Calder leads the Tar Heels on the sideline, Hatchell has remained involved by reviewing practice and game video, conferring with her staff and meeting with her players.

This is the first time she has missed games since missing two in January 1989 because of the birth of her son, Van.

"Coach Hatchell still makes the decisions," said Ivory Latta, North Carolina's career scoring leader and a first-year assistant coach. "She definitely still calls the shots. …

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