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Originally published December 24, 2013 at 6:52 PM | Page modified December 24, 2013 at 9:13 PM

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North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell is eager to return to sideline

Sylvia Hatchell is battling to get back to her North Carolina women’s basketball program as quickly as possible. The recently inducted Naismith Hall of Fame coach has been away from sideline duties since October while receiving treatment for leukemia.


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College basketball

N. Carolina coach Hatchell is eager to return to sideline

Sylvia Hatchell is fighting to get back to her North Carolina women’s basketball program as quickly as possible.

The recently inducted Naismith Hall of Fame coach has been away from sideline duties since October while receiving treatment for leukemia. She spent a month in the hospital for the first round of chemotherapy, with more ahead as she holds out hope of getting back by Atlantic Coast Conference tournament time.

“You don’t realize, especially after all this time, how much something means to you until you don’t have it,” Hatchell said. “It was like a tsunami hit me and all of a sudden it’s taken away. But that’s my motivation, to get back out there.”

Hatchell, 61, said she feels great. She attended Saturday’s 103-71 victory over High Point, the first time she watched her 10th-ranked Tar Heels (11-2) play in person this season.

She returns to a hospital Friday for her next five-day round of chemotherapy, the second of at least three and maybe four “consolidation” sessions to complete her treatment. Her chances of returning this season depend largely on how her immune system recovers each time.

Dr. Pete Voorhees, the oncologist overseeing her treatment, said last month physicians were “extremely pleased” with her progress.

“I haven’t had one test come back and knock me down, so the only thing I’ve got against me is my age,” Hatchell said with a laugh.

Hatchell, in her 28th season at North Carolina, has more than 900 career victories and the 1994 NCAA championship. With longtime assistant Andrew Calder leading the team on the sideline, Hatchell has remained involved by reviewing practice and game video, conferring with her staff and meeting with players.

“Coach Hatchell still makes the decisions,” said Ivory Latta, North Carolina’s career scoring leader and a first-year assistant coach. “She definitely still calls the shots.”

Olympics

Russian official: Absence of Obama won’t matter

A top Russian political and sports official said President Obama’s decision not to attend the 2014 Sochi Olympics will have no real effect on the competition.

“Obama can’t come? Well, he hasn’t been to a single Games during his time in the presidency,” Alexander Zhukov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news service. “It doesn’t reflect on the quality of the Games in any way.”

In addition to Obama, the presidents of France and Germany are also expected to skip the Olympics.

Their absences add further emphasis to widespread criticism of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, which effectively bans gay-pride events and the discussion of “nontraditional sexual relations” in the presence of minors.

In a move many observers view as a dig at the Russians, Obama included three openly gay athletes — tennis great Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and hockey player Caitlin Cahow — on the U.S. delegation.

“The point is the competition and not that 20 or 30 leaders come to the opening ceremony,” said Zhukov, who is head of the Russian Olympic Committee and a political ally of President Vladimir Putin.

NHL

Bettman upholds 15-game suspension of Thornton

League commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 15-game suspension of Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton.

Thornton appealed the ban last week after he was sanctioned for punching and injuring an unsuspecting opponent against Pittsburgh on Dec. 7. He knocked Brooks Orpik’s feet from under him and landed gloved punches to his head.

Orpik was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion.

Bettman heard Thornton’s appeal at a hearing in New York on Friday.

“I have no trouble concluding that a very lengthy suspension is warranted and that the decision to impose a 15-game suspension is supported by clear and convincing evidence,” Bettman said.

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