Growing up in Gastonia, North Carolina, women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was the only girl on the playground, playing pickup games against boys who imitated NBA stars like Elgin Baylor and Jerry Lucas.
But after her selection to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Class of 2013, Hatchell will have something else to boast about when she sees those childhood friends at an upcoming reunion.
“Now I’m going to be able to say, ‘You know what, I know them and I have something in common with them,’” she said in a press conference Tuesday.
The three-time national coach of the year, who spent 11 seasons as a coach at Francis Marion, was introduced at center court in front of 75,000 fans at the Division I men’s basketball championship Monday. She will be enshrined in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 8.
Hatchell received the call that she had been selected while in the parking lot of Harris Teeter, and she said former players and colleagues have lit up her phone with congratulatory emails and text messages.
UNC point guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who hopes to be selected in the WNBA Draft on Monday, said the up-tempo style she played under Hatchell will be useful at the next level.
“I’ve always been that energetic player that brings a lot of passion to the team,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “You’re just trying to stay at her level of passion and energy all the time.”
Other members of the 2013 class include coaches Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian and Guy Lewis, as well as players Bernard King, Gary Payton and Dawn Staley.
“For a basketball guru like me, it’s probably the next best thing to heaven,” Hatchell said of her induction.
In her 27th year at UNC, she became the third women’s basketball coach to reach 900 wins in February. She has the second-most wins in women’s basketball history behind former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.
Hatchell said she would like Summitt, who is battling early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, to be her presenter at the enshrinement ceremony if she feels up to it.
Nine other Tar Heels — all men — are members of the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Hatchell’s crowning achievement remains the 1994 national championship, where UNC beat Louisiana Tech on a Charlotte Smith 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left.
“That shot in that game really did change my life,” Hatchell said. “Because without that championship this probably would not have happened.”
Smith, who is now the head coach at Elon after working as an assistant coach at UNC until 2011, reciprocated Hatchell’s gratitude.
“She brought out the best us,” Smith told the Daily Tar Heel in February. “There was a whole lot more of us that she could see that we couldn’t see, and she brought that out of us.”
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