The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday June 5th

Q&A with women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell

Less than a month after being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2013, UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Her new book, “Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life,” details her battle and eventual triumph over the disease. Staff writer Macon Gambill asked Hatchell about her book.

The Daily Tar Heel: What is the book about?

Sylvia Hatchell: My book is about my personal battle with leukemia and I wrote it because I wanted to help other people when they go through, you know, difficult times, hard times. When you get that call, and whether it’s cancer or, you know, anything – it can be just anything that’s difficult and challenging and becomes a personal battle, I guess, more than anything. I just wanted to let other people know what I did and give them encouragement and really, the courage to fight. I mean, you’ve got to have that mentality.

I just wanted to give other people encouragement and let them know what I did. And also, how hard it is. I mean, it’s a marathon. Not a sprint, but a marathon. And it’s very very difficult and tough...Since I was over there, you know, they called me several times to say, well you know Coach, we’ve got a person over here we’ve brought in and they have acute myeloid leukemia…And usually…I just drop whatever I’m doing and I get the car and I go over there and I go in and I sit down…I say, ‘Look. I know what you’re going through.’ …I didn’t have people that I could talk to when I was over there because not many people have survived the kind of leukemia I had…so that’s one reason why I wrote this book.

I’m going to go in the studio in a couple weeks and I’m going to be the reader. So I’m not going to hire somebody to do it…I’m going to read my book and put it on audio because lots of people, when they’re sick like that, they don’t feel like reading. You know, they can’t read and they don’t feel like reading, but they can listen…I just wanted to help other people when they go through hard times and give them the encouragement and the mentality not to give up — to fight.

I just want to help a lot of other people when they are blindsided like I was. When you’re blindsided by adversities of life, you know, you’ve got to fight. So that’s what it’s all about.

DTH: What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?

SH: Inspiration, motivation, and determination that they can fight. They can fight and beat any adversity that they face. It would be inspirational, motivational where they’re just like ‘hey, I can do this. You know, Coach Hatchell did it,’ and when they read it, they come away with encouragement and inspiration and determination that ‘I want to do this.’

DTH: What are some books or movies that have influenced you as you are today?

SH: Oh wow, there’s so many of them. But like I said, I love books, stories and movies about people and about their lives and about how they’ve won battles as they live and made accomplishments. And also, I like stories about when people help other people…So I’ve always liked books and stories like that – that give encouragement and motivate you and things like that. I mean, I’ve been coaching for 42 years. I mean, I’ve got so many books like that, and I never get tired of them. You know, I love John Maxwell books…one called "Talent is Never Enough" – I use that with my team all the time…I love books like that.

I actually, at my house here in Chapel Hill, I have a library. I mean a real library. I mean I’m talking about a room with nothing but shelves on every wall and they’re full of basketball, and motivational books, and I’ve got a lot of Christian books, inspirational Christian-type books there, you know…And I have books with me in my car, as I travel, in my backpack that I carry I always have two or three books in there. So, that’s what I like. I like to see people win. And not just ballgames. I mean I’m talking about, win in life. Win in circumstances. Overcomers, I guess, moreso than anything – to overcome things. So I enjoy that. I enjoy watching people and I enjoy helping people do that, too. That was one of the reasons I wrote the book, because I wanted to help other people.

DTH: Who are some people who have helped shape you into the person you are today?

SH: So, you know, when I came along there wasn’t that many female role models in sports. And my parents were wonderful. I had the greatest parents in the world, and they encouraged me that anything I wanted to do, I could do. Just put my mind to it, put my heart to it, and you know, great things are going to happen. Because I grew up in North Carolina…I was in high school watching Dean Smith in the sixties. You know, I watched him coaching here at the University of North Carolina and then when I first started coaching, my coaching style…I tried to pattern after what Coach Smith was doing…But there’s just a lot of people that have been mentors to me, as far as just being inspirational, encouragement, you know, giving me the confidence that I could accomplish great things and do great things and not to give up, not to quit, no matter what the obstacle was, no matter what the situation was…My husband tells people all the time, he says, ‘Please don’t tell her she can’t do something. Because she’s gonna die trying to prove you wrong. So please don’t tell her she can’t do something.’

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