CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The households of a number of University of North Carolina ladies’s basketball gamers complained final week of racially insensitive remarks by Sylvia Hatchell, the college’s Hall of Fame coach who was subsequently placed on depart, based on two individuals with direct information of the allegations.
Hatchell’s lawyer, Wade M. Smith, stated in an interview Thursday that his shopper was conscious of the accusations that had been described intimately by one of the individuals with direct information. He stated his shopper’s phrases had been misquoted or misconstrued.
The households detailed their issues in a gathering that some U.N.C. officers attended in Chapel Hill whereas the athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, joined by video convention from one other location, based on the one who described the assembly and spoke on the situation of anonymity out of concern of retaliation.
The assembly included accusations that Hatchell had warned loss to Louisville might result in “nooses,” based on the individual, and that the coach had as soon as urged gamers to do a “tomahawk chop” struggle cry, a request the ladies resisted.
Within days of the assembly, the college, which has been within the midst of a reckoning over racism and Confederate history, announced that Hatchell and her three assistants would be put on paid administrative leave while an outside law firm conducted a review to “assess the culture of the women’s basketball program and the experience of our student-athletes.”
The announcement stunned North Carolina and appeared abrupt, but in the discussion with university officials on March 28, players’ relatives said Hatchell’s conduct had caused discomfort during at least two basketball seasons, according to the person.
The families also told university officials that Hatchell had complained that her team played like “old mules” during a game against Georgia Tech — a remark that some took as a reference to female slaves and that led at least one player to cry, according to the person.
In another instance, the families said, according to the person, Hatchell warned that if U.N.C. turned in a middling performance against Louisville, “nooses” would await.
“If you guys play this way against Louisville, they’re going to take y’all outside with some nooses,” Hatchell said, according to the person, who was told of the remark by people who were present.
The reference to “nooses,” the person said, led to two apologies from Hatchell, the second because players thought the first one had lacked sincerity. The players remained frustrated with their coach but elected to wait until the off-season to address their concerns.
Smith said the coach had used different words when warning about the coming Louisville game. “She said words like: ‘They’re going to hang us out to dry. They’re going to take a rope and hang us out to dry,’” the lawyer said.
Smith said his client “doesn’t have a racist bone in her body.”
Allegations of racism against Hatchell were first reported by The Washington Post.
Five days after U.N.C.’s season ended, with a 20-point loss to California in the opening round of the N.C.A.A. tournament, the families voiced their grievances in the meeting.
A North Carolina athletic department spokesman declined to comment. When the university announced the review on Monday, it said it was “committed to the well-being of our student-athletes and to ensuring that they have the best experience possible in and outside of competition.”
U.N.C. players either declined to comment or did not respond to messages. It was not clear which of the team’s players were represented when the relatives spoke with Cunningham and the other U.N.C. employees. No members of the coaching staff attended the meeting, which was organized after some players’ relatives held a conference call on March 25, the person said.
Smith said Thursday that the coach’s suggestion of the tomahawk chop, often seen at Florida State athletic events, was a motivational tool, and he said that Hatchell had often tried to commandeer the traditions of other schools to inspire her team.
The lawyer said that Hatchell intended no offense in that episode and that she did not recall making any statements about “old mules.”
The person who described the allegations against Hatchell did not know of any specific accusations against the assistant coaches.
The North Carolina women’s basketball team has had great success under Hatchell, particularly in the 1990s and the 2000s. The Tar Heels won their sole national championship in 1994.
Hatchell, who recently completed her 33rd season at North Carolina, is one of a handful of college basketball coaches with more than 1,000 career wins, and she is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In her first college coaching job, Hatchell oversaw the junior varsity team at Tennessee in the team’s first season under Pat Summitt, a trailblazing head coach.
But in this decade North Carolina has only twice reached the second weekend of the N.C.A.A. tournament, both times thanks to four players from its highly regarded recruiting class in 2013. After two seasons, all four players had transferred out of the program. This year, the team finished 18-15.
Smith said on Thursday that, despite the allegations, he hoped Hatchell would be able to return to coaching at North Carolina.
“I want her to,” he said. “I believe this is a case in which things are not what they seem.”
On Thursday morning, Hatchell’s executive assistant sent an email to season-ticket holders. The season-end banquet had been postponed.
“Those who have paid for tickets will be refunded,” the email said. “When the banquet is rescheduled, we will contact you with more information.”