UNC's Hatchell goes for 900th win in Duke game
This could be a huge weekend for North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell.
A victory over rival Duke Sunday would make it 900 career wins for the veteran Tar Heels coach.
Hatchell said Friday that "I'd be lying if I said it didn't matter" that the milestone victory could come against the fifth-ranked Blue Devils.
"It's really not about me winning 900 games against Duke," she added. "It's about the experience those kids have playing this game. ... The experience our kids have playing each other, Carolina and Duke, in any sport, it's as good as probably playing in the Super Bowl because it is the Super Bowl of college athletics."
Hatchell is the winningest active women's coach in Division I with an 899-316 record in her 38th season. She is poised to join Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt in the women's 900-win club. Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is two wins behind Hatchell.
The 60-year-old went 272-80 in 11 seasons at Francis Marion before coming to North Carolina in 1986 and has gone 627-236 with the Tar Heels, leading them to their only women's national championship in 1994.
The 11th-ranked Tar Heels (20-2, 8-1), the preseason picks to finish fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference, enter the weekend tied for second behind Duke (19-1, 9-0).
Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie called the milestone "a special thing" because it represents a long, successful career. North Carolina men's coach Roy Williams - whose archrival, Mike Krzyzewski, surged past 900 career wins last season and now is at 945 and counting - said Hatchell's upcoming accomplishment is "off the charts.
"Toughness, the tenaciousness to have that kind of longevity is off the charts," Williams said. "Of course, you have to have good players. You have to have good players that you can convince to buy into what's best for the team. You have to have the stamina and the will to keep doing it (consistently). ... I can't even perceive that kind of thing."
It's a lock that Hatchell will get to 900 and beyond at some point. If the Tar Heels don't beat Duke, they'll surely be heavy favorites next week to defeat a middle-of-the-pack Boston College team that has lost seven of 10.
But a win over the Blue Devils would fit the pattern for Hatchell, whose previous few milestone victories have come against another Triangle rival: North Carolina State. Her 500th, 600th, 700th and 800th wins each came roughly four years apart against the Wolfpack.
"Duke is so good this year, and no one's expecting us to be as good as we are this year," forward Krista Gross said. "It'd be a great way to get her 900th win."
Hatchell laughed at the suggestion that her current crop of freshmen might be around long enough to deliver her 1,000th victory, which at this pace could arrive in 2017. The recruiting services say her freshman class ranks among the nation's best, and its highest-profile player is Xylina McDaniel, the daughter of former NBA player Xavier McDaniel.
But she hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Her contract was extended through 2017-18 by former athletic director Dick Baddour.
"We'll see what happens, but I feel like I've got several more years in me," Hatchell said. "A lot of people are asking me, and I say, `Look, I'm planning on coaching several more years.' Dickie gave me a new contract before he retired last year, so I'm fired up. Especially about this team now, and about the future."