UNC hires Princeton’s Banghart as women’s basketball coach

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FILE – In this Saturday, March 23, 2019, file photo, Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart looks on during the first half of a first-round women’s college basketball game against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament in Raleigh, N.C. A person with knowledge of the situation says North Carolina has reached a deal with Princeton’s Banghart to […]

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina has reached a deal with Princeton’s Courtney Banghart to become the Tar Heels’ next women’s basketball coach, UNC officials announced Tuesday morning.

The board has scheduled an emergency meeting via teleconference for Tuesday morning, though it didn’t specify the exact agenda. Shortly after the meeting, the deal was announced.

Banghart will replace Sylvia Hatchell, a Hall of Fame coach who resigned April 18 after an outside program review reported she had made “racially insensitive” comments and pressured players to compete through medical issues. That review also cited a “breakdown of connectivity” between Hatchell and the players after 28 interviews of current players and program personnel.

The 40-year-old Banghart has guided the Tigers to eight of the past 10 NCAA Tournaments with seven Ivy League championships. Now she must move the UNC program in a new direction after Hatchell’s 33-year tenure.

Banghart played at Dartmouth and worked as an assistant there before taking over at Princeton in 2007. She is 254-103 in 12 seasons, though more than a third of those losses came during her first two seasons. In the years since, she has won nearly 78% of her games dating to the 2009-10 season with three perfect runs through Ivy League play and the past two Ivy League Tournament titles.

Her best season came in in 2014-15, when the Tigers went 31-1 and Banghart was named Naismith national women’s coach of the year. Princeton won all but two games by double figures that year before suffering their only loss to No. 1 seed Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Princeton went 22-10 last season and won the league tournament before losing to Kentucky in the NCAA first round.

“Courtney Banghart has proven she knows how to lead students to wins both on and off the court,’’ Carolina Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said. “She believes in developing strong character and a championship mentality, in recruiting and graduating players who want to serve their community, and in building relationships in and outside of her program. She is an outstanding addition to our department and University, and I am pleased to welcome Courtney and her family to our Carolina family.”

The challenge awaiting Banghart in Chapel Hill starts with making a big step up from the Ivy League to running and recruiting for a power-conference program in a league headlined by national powers Notre Dame and Louisville. There’s also a need for a jolt of energy for a program that had limped through several bumpy seasons even prior to Hatchell’s exit.

Hatchell is the winningest women’s coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history with 1,023 victories, with 751 of those coming during 33 seasons at UNC to go with eight ACC Tournament titles, three Final Fours and the 1994 NCAA championship.

But there had been difficulties in recent years. She had missed the 2013-14 season while battling leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy. The program also spent several seasons under the shadow of the school’s multi-year academic case dealing with irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, a case that reached a no-penalty conclusion in October 2017.

Along the way, there had been significant roster turnover with numerous transfers and hits to recruiting that contributed to the Tar Heels missing three straight NCAA Tournaments before returning to the field this year for the first time since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2015.

Banghart will sign a five-year contract with the Tar Heels and begin her official duties in the coming days. The terms of the agreement were approved by UNC’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday morning.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who has made Carolina what it is: the women who have worn the Carolina blue, Coach Hatchell who hung a banner, the men’s program that brought us the Jumpman, the outstanding coaches who have been a model of consistent excellence, and the alumni who have loved this place with all their hearts,’’ Banghart said. “I’m honored to be your coach, and you will get my very best.”

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/CollegeBasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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