University of North Carolina’s head women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell has resigned.
This comes after a university-commissioned review found she made “racially insensitive” comments.
Hatchell also wielded “undue influence” regarding player’s medical issues and pressured them to play, frustrating — but not swaying — the team’s medical staff.
Hatchell allegedly, this season, suggested her players would be “hanged from trees with nooses” if they didn’t improve their play.
Hatchell’s attorney, Wade Smith, said she would never use the word “noose,” and that her comment had been about being “hung out to dry.”
UNC announced April 1 that it had put Hatchell on leave and commissioned the review by Parker Poe, based on information from student-athletes and others.
The findings “led us to conclude that the program needed to be taken in a new direction,” Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham said Thursday. “Coach Hatchell agrees, and she offered her resignation today. I accepted it.”
Hatchell made the “noose” comment after a December 28 game.
Hatchell was displeased with the team’s performance and made the comment in the locker room afterward.
One player’s mother said Hatchell told the players, “When you go to Louisville, if you perform like you did tonight, they’re going to have nooses outside the arena, and they’re going to hang you by your necks from trees.”
A father recalled the comment as, “We’re going up to Louisville. Those people are going to be waiting with nooses to hang you from trees.”
Hatchell told the team, “In the ACC, they are going to come after you with reckless abandon. They are going (to) string you up and hang you out to dry,” the attorney’s spokeswoman, Joyce Fitzpatrick, said.
The parents also alleged Hatchell, after a different loss, said the team had played like “old mules,” and that some people took that as a reference to female slaves.
Hatchell did not recall making any statements about “old mules.”
Hatchell also was accused of trying to get players to “engage in a ‘war chant’ to ‘honor’ the Native American ancestry of an assistant coach,” who was “visibly uncomfortable,” according to two parents who had learned about the incident from their daughters.
Hatchell also allegedly discouraged surgery
At a March meeting, parents voiced their concerns about three players feeling pressured by Hatchell to play through injuries.
One player eventually learned she needed corrective shoulder surgery, and another learned she had a torn tendon in her knee. A third player reported the coach cast doubt on whether she had suffered a concussion.
Hatchell discouraged a player from getting surgery after she had dislocated her shoulder in December 2016, the player’s parents said at that meeting. Two outside doctors later determined she needed the surgery.
Hatchell allegedly pressured another player, who had a torn tendon in her knee, to keep working out and to play in either the ACC or the NCAA tournaments despite her pain, because WNBA scouts would “want to see if she can play through pain.”
Hatchell didn’t recall the allegations about pressuring injured players to return to play and said she never would have tried to convince anyone to play whom the medical staff had not cleared.
Hatchell won more than 1,000 games in 44 years
She was a 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, won one NCAA championship (1994) and made two other Final Four appearances (2006 and 2007) since becoming UNC coach in 1986. She also coached 11 seasons at Francis Marion University.
She had a 751-325 record at North Carolina.