Sam Houston State women’s head basketball coach Wooley Hatchell resigned Tuesday afternoon to take a position at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Hatchell, who has coached the Bearkats for the past three years, will be the associate head coach for the Ragin’ Cajuns under J. Kelley Hall.

“The people and coaches at Louisiana-Lafayette are very old friends of mine,” Hatchell said in a phone interview Tuesday. “You don’t get too close to many people in this business, and we have talked about coaching together in the past. This was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.

“I’m thankful to (athletic director) Bobby Williams and the university for giving me the opportunity to coach here. Huntsville has been good to me, and this was a tough decision to make.”

Hatchell joined SHSU in the summer of 2003 with the task of turning around a program that hadn’t been to the Southland Conference postseason tournament since 2000. In his first season, the coach lead the Bearkats to the SLC tournament where the team came close to upsetting No. 1 seeded Northwestern State in the first round.

The Bearkats suffered through a couple of rebuilding seasons, and Hatchell finished his tenure at SHSU with a 23-59 overall record.

While the coach will have the opportunity to continue his career working with close friends, he doesn’t want the Bearkats to feel like this move had something to do with their progress.

“It’s bittersweet,” Hatchell said. “I’m going to miss the kids. I feel very strongly about the potential of the kids coming back and the new recruits. This last recruiting class is one of the best to be brought in here. I want them to understand that my expectations for them is not diminished, it is still high.

“This is not in anyway about them. In this business you never know when an opportunity like this will come around again.”

Hatchell’s resignation caught Williams off guard, but he understands the opportunity and wishes the coach the best at UL.

“This is a chance for him to go back and work with some of his close friends,” Williams said Tuesday afternoon. “It came as quite a surprise because it is late in the year. He is a good coach and we hate to see him go. But we wish coach Hatchell great success.”

Williams said the athletic department will get the ball rolling on finding Hatchell’s replacement as soon as possible.

Hatchell is joining a Ragin’ Cajuns squad that is coming off its best season in school history under Hall. UL posted a 22-9 record en route to winning the Sun Belt Conference West Championship. The team’s 22 victories tied as the most in school history, while their 21 Division I wins set a new record.

Before coming to SHSU, Hatchell served for 10 years as an assistant coach at Rice. He also spent time at as an assistant at Western Kentucky and coached in the high school ranks in South Carolina.

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