Report: Hatchell probed for alleged racist remarks

North Carolina's Hall of Fame women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell is under investigation over allegations that she made racially offensive remarks -- including telling her players they would get "hanged from trees with nooses" if they didn't improve -- and tried to force players to compete through serious injuries, according to a report on Thursday in The Washington Post.

The report cites interviews with seven people with knowledge of the investigation, including six parents of current players.

North Carolina has placed Hatchell and her three assistants on paid administrative leave and is reviewing the program, saying in a statement on Monday that the review is "due to issues raised by student-athletes and others."

In a phone interview with The Post on Thursday, Hatchell's attorney, Wade Smith, said the racially offensive remarks attributed to Hatchell by parents are incorrect and misconstrued.

"She said, 'They're going to take a rope and string us up, and hang us out to dry,'" Smith said.

"There is not a racist bone in her body. ... A very high percentage of the people who have played for her and who love her are African-American women. She is a terrific coach and a truly world-class human being."

Hatchell released a statement on Monday saying she will cooperate fully with the review.

"I've had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball," Hatchell said. "My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life.

"I love each and every one of the players I've coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me. I love them all."

North Carolina said in a statement on Thursday it would have no further comment until the review is completed.

Hatchell, a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, is the winningest women's basketball coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history. She has a career record of 1,023-405 and is 751-325 in 33 years at UNC with a national title in 1994.

She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, underwent chemotherapy through March 2014 and returned the following season to lead the Tar Heels to a 26-9 finish. The program also spent several seasons under the shadow of the school's multiyear NCAA academic case dealing with irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, a case that reached a no-penalty conclusion in October 2017.

Hatchell received a contract extension in September 2016 that runs through the end of next season.

North Carolina went 18-15 this season with upsets of top-10 teams NC State and Notre Dame. The Tar Heels lost to Cal in the first round of the NCAA tournament, their first trip there since 2015.

Andrew Calder, the program's associate head coach who was in charge while Hatchell fought leukemia, has been at the school for 33 years. Her other assistants are Sylvia Crawley, a former Tar Heels player and former head coach at Boston College; and recruiting coordinator Bett Shelby.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.