They'll all be back
Posted: Thursday March 30, 2000 03:03 PM
Sylvia Hatchell coached North Carolina to a national championship in 1994. The Tar Heels finished the 1999-2000 season 20-12. The No. 5 seed in the West region, North Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year by defeating Maine and Rice before losing to No. 1 seed Georgia.
March 29, 2000
We were disappointed and frustrated with our final game of the season, the loss to Georgia last Saturday, but as we look back, we see that we were very blessed to go as far and finish as strong as we did. Without a doubt, the season ended earlier than we wanted it to, but the last month was a lot of fun. We were 12-11 at one point in the season and a lot of people had written us off for even getting an NCAA bid, so we're happy about the fact that we were able to make it to the Sweet 16 and get there by playing on the road. In many ways, we had a very victorious season, much more successful that our record (20-13) indicates. I'm really happy with the way our players matured and bonded together, the way the chemistry has developed and the fact they'll all be back.
Usually at this point in the season, when it's all over with, you're just tired -- mentally, physically and emotionally. I don't feel that way this year. I've been doing this for 25 years and there haven't been many years that I haven't been just exhausted when the season was over with. Right now, I'm excited about the team and I wish we could keep playing. The good thing is, we're going on a tour of Australia in May and we'll be able to play some games, do some experimenting and work on some things for next year. We want to renew the passion that we've been playing with for the last month of the season.
We felt like we had an outstanding game against Rice in the second round. Since we were headed from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Portland, Ore., we stayed out on the West Coast, but now I feel like maybe the length of the trip hurt us a little. If we had come back for a couple of days, we could have practiced against the guys we normally go against and also had a little break and gotten refocused on what we needed to do.
We lost to an outstanding Georgia team in the regional semifinal. We didn't play as well as we wanted to and we missed some easy shots, but we were still in there early. Georgia just man-handled us, though. I feel like their size inside definitely made a difference down the stretch.
You look at the four teams that went on to the Final Fou,r and they've all got one or two big bodies inside. That can really make a difference. With our talent level, we are a Sweet 16 team. To move onto that next level, we've got to have that inside presence. We don't have that right now, but hopefully we'll have it next year with some of the players we have coming in. That's an area in which we've got to get better in order to advance on to the Elite Eight or Final Four.
I watched all the regional finals on Monday and thought there were some outstanding games. Rebounding was a key in almost every game, and also that physical presence inside. The teams played with passion and desire and really made some big shots. I was very impressed with Tamika Catchings from Tennessee. After she went out with a sprained ankle, probably 99 percent of players would not have come back. But at that point in the season, you block the pain out because of the goals you've set and the desire and passion you have.
In watching the West final, I thought Rutgers did what they had to do to win. They played a good matchup zone against Georgia. After our game, I was asked by the media if Georgia could win the national championship. I said they definitely had the talent to -- I felt like they started five WNBA first-round draft picks -- but the key would be whether they could keep from getting frustrated. If they got frustrated, I felt like they would be taken out of their game. Rutgers dictated the tempo from beginning to end and made Georgia play the style that Rutgers wanted to play. If Georgia could have pressed more or made it more of an up-and-down-the-court game, that would definitely have been in their favor.
I going to the Final Four, and in addition to some great games in Philadelphia this weekend, I'm looking forward to a ceremony honoring Betty Jaynes, who is retiring as CEO of the WBCA after 19 years. She has run the coaches' association from day one and is a great friend of mine. She has had a huge influence on women's basketball and really deserves all the recognition she'll get this weekend.
-- Coach Hatchell