Dec. 19, 2017, is a day that should be forever branded into the memories of every college basketball fan.
But unfortunately, most of the people who love the sport are probably clueless as to what took place earlier this week.
And to be honest, I was almost one of them.
If it wasn’t for a late-night viewing of “SportsCenter” before bed, I would have missed out too, and certainly not have written this column.
On Tuesday, Sylvia Hatchell won her 1,000th game when North Carolina’s women’s basketball team defeated Grambling State 79-63. The victory made Hatchell the third women’s basketball coach to reach 1,000 career victories.
Later in the day, UConn’s women’s coach Geno Auriemma joined Hatchell when the top-ranked Huskies defeated Oklahoma 88-64 in the Hall of Fame women’s Holiday Showcase. Hatchell and Auriemma now accompany the late Pat Summitt (Tennessee) and Tara VanDerveer (Stanford) as the only coaches to hold that honor in women’s college basketball.
History was made twice over on Tuesday, but the publicity around it was lackluster.
Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) is officially the only men’s coach to have reached the 1,000 mark. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim has won over 1,000 games, but due to the NCAA vacating 101 of his wins, we are somehow supposed to forget victories from games that actually happened.
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When Coach K’s Blue Devils defeated St. John’s on Jan. 25, 2015, it was a moment. It was almost impossible to not know Coach K was about to make history, given all the hype building up to the game, and all the highlights that could be watched after it.
And when Boeheim and the Orange defeated Virginia on Feb. 4, in front of 27,553 fans at the Carrier Dome, the attention was still there, even if the win wasn’t “technically” his 1,000th victory.
It wasn’t the same for Auriemma and Hatchell.
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Because for some reason, people (men and women included) don’t seem to have the same passion for women’s basketball.
Is it sexism and misogyny?
But is it fair to cast those accusations on people just because they prefer one brand of basketball over the other?
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No, because that’s not fair, either.
I don’t know what the answer is, but for a basketball fanatic like myself, I’ve always loved watching the game no matter who was on the court. And as a fan of history, whenever things like Tuesday happen, I’m always fascinated by the magnitude of the moment.
“I think it’s a number that, it’s significant because so few people have been able to do that,” Auriemma said. “There’s just so few opportunities to coach that many games. So you feel incredibly fortunate that you’re one of a very, very, very select few and they’re some of the great coaches that have ever coached.”
Auriemma is the fastest coach to ever win 1,000, as it only took him 1,135 games. He’s gone 500-36 since winning his 500th game in 2003, and UConn has won 100 of its last 101 games.
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“Next week, two weeks from now, three weeks from now, a month from now when we’re playing games, I don’t know that I’ll be referred to as, ‘1,000-game winner, Geno Auriemma,’” he continued. “I think it’s over and done with once it happens and we move on, and it’s something that we put in our memory bank, and go from there.”
Hatchell began her career at Francis Marion where she gathered her first 272 career wins and has been coaching at North Carolina since 1986.
“It means a lot,” Hatchell said. “But numbers don’t mean that much to me. I just want to win the next game. But lately, I’ve been hearing from so many former players, many of them from Francis Marion and UNC were here today. They all brought back so many memories and flashbacks.”
Within hours on the same day, two Hall of Fame coaches became members of a historic group that had only included four people in it before Tuesday, in a sport that has been around since 1891.
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An unknown author once said, “history is herstory, too.”
And philosopher and writer George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
The sports media world dropped the ball on this one, and should have made this a priority and a bigger story.
The media gives us plenty of candy, but from time to time, it must also administer some needed medicine as well. And this was a time for everyone to get a dose of women’s basketball history.
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Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer is fewer than 25 wins away from 1,000.
Here’s to us not repeating our failures when her day comes.
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Carron J. Phillips