Two weeks after returning the North Carolina women’s basketball team back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years, a sign perceived that her once-elite program was finally heading back in the right direction, coach Sylvia Hatchell and her staff have been placed on administrative leave.
According to a statement issued by the university on Monday, the Charlotte-based firm of Parker, Poe, Adams and Bernstein will conduct a review to “assess the culture of the women’s basketball program..”
No details were provided as to why the action has been taken, other than that the “issues were raised by student-athletes and others.” The statement said that while there is no set timetable for completion of the review, it “will be thorough and prompt.
“The University of North Carolina is committed to the well-being of our student-athletes,” the statement said, “and to ensuring that they have the best experience possible in and outside of competition.”
Hatchell has coached the Tar Heels for the past 33 seasons, compiling a 751-325 record that includes a national championship in 1994. Her 1,023 career coaching victories ranks third on the all-time list, an accomplishment that helped her earn induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Her career, however, hasn’t been without its rough patches.
She was forced to take the 2013-14, she was forced to take the season off while battling cancer. She then endured a controversy that saw her program named directly by the NCAA in UNC’s infamous AFAM scandal.
The program took a major step back after a mass exodus of transfers amid the NCAA investigation. But Hatchell was given a three-year contract extension in 2016 and led by record-breaking senior guard Paris Kea, the Tar Heels returned to the NCAA tournament after going 18-14 this season.
They lost a first-round game to California. But instead of serving as a springboard into the final season of her current contract, Hatchell’s future at UNC is now in doubt.
Hatchell issued a statement of her own addressing her uncertain situation
“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” Hatchell said in the statement. “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.”