CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said she’s scheduled to start what she hopes is her final chemotherapy treatment for leukemia this week and “there’s a chance” she could return for the NCAA tournament.
Hatchell attended Sunday’s regular-season finale between her No. 14 Tar Heels and No. 7 Duke. Speaking before the game, Hatchell said the decision will be up to her doctors of whether she can return in a supporting role on the bench.
“There’s a chance,” Hatchell said. “In the back of my mind. But it’s not my decision.”
The five-day treatment would keep her out of this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro. But the NCAA Tournament games in Chapel Hill wouldn’t begin for another two weeks afterward, giving Hatchell extra time to recover from what could be her final treatment.
“That’s what they’re telling me, but I’m not the doctor,” Hatchell said. “They’re saying that they feel like this will probably be the last round, but you never know along the way.”
Hatchell, who turned 62 on Friday, was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in September then was diagnosed with her illness in October. Her doctor said in January her leukemia is in remission after several chemotherapy treatments.
Associate head coach Andrew Calder has led the Tar Heels in her absence.
Hatchell said Calder would remain in the leading role if she does make it back, with Hatchell saying her job at that point would be more as “a shot in the arm.”
Hatchell, in her 28th season at UNC, has more than 900 career victories, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles, three Final Fours and the 1994 NCAA championship. Hatchell has remained involved by reviewing practice and game video, conferring with her staff and meeting with her players all season.
This season marked the first time she’s missed games since missing two in January 1989 due to the birth of her son, Van.
“It’s going to be close,” Hatchell said of her recovery time. “But I could make it if there are no delays.”