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UNC's Hatchell savoring Naismith selection

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)

It's been nearly a week since North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell got the call saying she would join the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, and she's still having a hard time believing it.

''I'm still like, `OK, when am I going to wake up here?''' Hatchell said Tuesday.

Hatchell will be part of a class that includes Louisville men's coach Rick Pitino and former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. That group will be inducted to the Naismith hall in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 8.

For the 61-year-old coach, it's the latest achievement in a career that includes 908 career victories, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles, three Final Fours and the 1994 NCAA title.

Hatchell, who has spent 27 of her 38 seasons as a head coach at UNC, currently ranks second in all-time wins behind former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. Already a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame since 2004, Hatchell said during a news conference Tuesday on campus that the Naismith honor ''was on my bucket list.''

''It's just been overwhelming really to be involved with this,'' Hatchell said. ''Of course, this is something you just dream of, especially if you're sort of eat-up with basketball like I am and have such a passion for it. This is probably the next best thing to being in heaven.''

Hatchell and the other soon-to-be inductees were notified last Wednesday, a call that came while Hatchell was heading from her workout to the grocery store to pick up a salad before returning to campus. The group of inductees was honored during the men's national championship game between Louisville and Michigan in Atlanta's Georgia Dome on Monday night.

Hatchell has won national championships on three levels - AIAW, NAIA and NCAA - and joins North Carolina men's coaches Dean Smith and Roy Williams as Hall of Famers. Hatchell was also The Associated Press women's basketball coach of the year in 2006, which ended with one of her three runs to the Final Four with the Tar Heels.

Hatchell started her career coaching a seventh- and eighth-grade girls team while an undergraduate at Carson-Newman, then coached the women's junior varsity team while getting a Master's degree at Tennessee during the 1974-75 season.

She went on to spent 11 seasons at Francis Marion before taking over at UNC in 1986. Eight years later, Charlotte Smith hit the 3-pointer at the buzzer against Louisiana Tech to win the national title, a shot Hatchell said ''changed my life.''

Yet she burns for another title. The Tar Heels, who won 29 games and reached the second round of the NCAAs, have inked what is widely regarded as the nation's No. 1 recruiting class behind top prospect Diamond DeShields of Norcross, Ga.

And that has Hatchell ready to go again with no thoughts of retirement.

''I'm excited about the future,'' she said. ''I feel great. Couldn't be any healthier, have as much passion as I've ever had. In fact, I'm thinking I've already figured out when practice is going to start next fall.''

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