Longtime North Carolina women's assistant coach Andrew Calder said Tuesday he's focused on keeping the Tar Heels on course until head coach Sylvia Hatchell can return from treatment from leukemia.
"She will be missed," Calder said. "However each year, she evaluates the talent she has coming in and with her philosophy puts together a master game plan for that year. We're just implementing that game plan. When she returns, we will be on schedule."
The school announced Hatchell's diagnosis Monday and it's unclear how long she'll be out, though the recently inducted Naismith Hall of Famer said in a statement she would remain involved with the program. As an example, Calder said, he's already sending Hatchell video of team practices for her to review.
Calder, 60, has been with Hatchell throughout her tenure with the Tar Heels. Entering his 28th season, Calder is the team's associate head coach and has been a key part of six 30-win seasons, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships, three Final Fours and the 1994 NCAA championship.
For now, he's leading a team that features a recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally by ESPN.
"We both have the same philosophy of how the game should be played," Calder said. "I think that's the main thing. We're going to continue to play the game the way she wants the game to be played. We're going to fast break and we're going to pressure people. And it's going to be a lot of fun."
Calder fought back tears as recounted learning of Hatchell's illness during a meeting Saturday. He said the news has hit the players hard, too, though he was quick to add they were "very, very enthusiastic" during Monday's practice and were motivated to work hard for her.
Calder said Hatchell has always worked to prepare her assistants to become head coaches one day. Yet Calder has been content to stay with Hatchell in a working relationship that began in 1986, making the comparison to Bill Guthridge's three-decade stay on the bench of retired Hall of Fame UNC men's coach Dean Smith.
"I have not looked to go anywhere," he said. "I have a very close relationship with Coach Hatchell and I love this university, this athletic department, everyone associated with this university. And I'm very comfortable in my position. ... I'm very happy, very happy."
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap