A friend of a friend-Sylvia Hatchell-Billy Lee-March 18

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for March 18, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

Last night in the NCAA Division II Men’s Southeast Regional Basketball Tournament the University of Mount Olive defeated Montevallo to advance to the Elite Eight. Mount Olive, NC is home to one of my longest standing friend Billy Lee.

Billy Lee is not only from Mt. Olive NC but he graduated from Mt Olive College (now the University of Mount Olive) in 1969 when it was a two-year school. From there he went on to Atlantic Christian now called Barton College in Wilson, NC. After graduating from Barton he spent time as a high school coach with stops at Wake-Forest Rolesville, East Montgomery, and New Bern HS before he landed on the staff at East Carolina in 1976. I was also at East Carolina at that time and we began a long relationship from that point on.

Billy is one of the most animated and wonderful communicators you will ever meet. He has stories that go on for days. In fact he is quite an accomplished public speaker and for a period of time he made a number of public appearances before he landed his current position as Special Assistant to the Head Coach/Director of Video Services/Scouting for the Women’s Basketball Team at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is his fourth year working alongside a good friend UNC Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell.

A well-respected coach with a long history in the state of North Carolina, Billy has over three decades of coaching experience. Billy after serving two seasons as an assistant coach at East Carolina he came to UNC Pembroke as head basketball coach where I was serving as Assistant Coach. It was the second time we would work together. During his time at Pembroke, Billy’s teams won three conference titles, advanced to the NAIA National Tournament and posted back-to-back 20-win seasons. In 1985, Lee took over as the head men’s coach at Campbell, where he led the Camels for 18 seasons. When Billy left for Campbell I got to replace him at UNC Pembroke. While at Campbell he became a five-time conference coach of the year, he also guided Campbell to the 1992 Big South Conference title and a bid to the NCAA Tournament, where his team faced eventual national champion Duke. In addition to winning over 400 games in his career, Billy was the director the Campbell University Basketball School, considered to be the largest and oldest of its kind in the United States. That summer camp is also where lots of coaching stories got told every night after camp was over. After leaving Campbell in 2003, Lee spent three seasons at St. Andrews in Laurinburg, NC before retiring from the coaching ranks to work as a basketball consultant and television analyst. Lee is married to Wendy Lee, the head women’s basketball coach at Mount Olive. His son Brooks is the former director of operations for the men’s basketball team at UNC Wilmington. In 2009, Lee was inducted into the Mount Olive College Athletics Hall of Fame.

On Saturday March 21, 2015 UNC Chapel Hill Women’s Basketball Team under Coach Sylvia Hatchell will begin play in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Billy Lee’s friend Sylvia Hatchell is quite a success story not only as a coach but as person.

The Friend-BILLY LEE

Bill Lee

The Friend of the Friend-SYLVIA HATCHELL

Sylvia Hatchell

Sylvia Hatchell can teach all of to appreciate the gifts we have

If you are not from North Carolina or not into college athletics you may not know Sylvia Hatchell’s story of taking a year off to battle cancer. It is an experience everyone can learn from even those that don’t have to deal with cancer. The lesson Sylvia Hatchell teaches is to appreciate what you have right now because it can be gone in an instant.

Sylvia Hatchell was the head coach for 28 years at UNC and has accomplished a lot. Her 29th season got delayed in October 2013. Sylvia  who is the winningest active coach in women’s college basketball, was diagnosed with leukemia. She took a leave of absence for the 2013-14 season, turning the team over to longtime assistant Andrew Calder and the rest of her staff including Billy Lee.  Another assistant on that staff was Tracey Williams-Johnson who is a UNC Pembroke Graduate.

Tracey williams johnson

Fighting cancer is a battle that can leave you run down. In 2013/14 when the Tar Heels left for road trips Sylvia would drive to campus and sit in the parking lot, waving goodbye. Some days, she was too weak even to get out of the car. Quarantined from her team because of a weak immune system, tears rolled down her face when she went to see them off. She missed what she had done for forty years-coach a team.

There are a number of great articles that have been written about Sylvia Hatchell and in one of them she is quoted as saying:

“I thought I had perspective,” says Hatchell, who is now in her 40th season as a head coach. “I thought I handled pressure well, thought I had my priorities in order. But you don’t realize how much something is part of you, how much you love it and have a passion for it, until it’s taken away from you. I wanted to be with them so badly.”

On Saturday when her team faces off against Liberty in the first round of the NCAA you can bet that she is going to enjoy the opportunity that she has.

If a criteria of success is enjoying what is taking place in the moment than cancer gave Sylvia Hatchell a gift. The year cancer took away from her was not a loss it was an investment in her appreciation for her profession of coaching.

We all can learn from the coach enjoy what you are doing today it can be gone in an instant. There are no guarantees you will get it back. I know on Saturday when the game starts nobody will know that better than Sylvia Hatchell.


  1. Jeff Neelon · · Reply

    Sent to Mike Cook

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Thanks

      On Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 8:28 AM, coach4aday wrote:


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