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Another side of Paul Hatcher

Legendary R.E. Lee basketball coach Paul Hatcher rocked the local sports world on Monday with the news that he is retiring after 43 seasons and 897 wins.

There’s already been plenty written by the sportswriters lauding Hatcher’s on-the-court accomplishments. I’ll share with you a different story with a small bit of insight into Hatcher off the court.

It came for me when I spent the afternoon with Hatcher’s lovely wife, Judy, early last year, talking with Judy about her long-time struggle with mental illness. Judy’s story is harrowing – her doctor took her off painkillers cold turkey, triggering a year-long series of psychotic reactions that changed her life and her family’s life forever.

That was 23 years ago, roughly halfway through Paul Hatcher’s storied career at Lee.

As Judy recounted for me how life has been since the psychotic episodes began, her husband came from from open gym at Lee. He sat down in a chair in the living room with a glass of tea and told me about his response to his wife’s mental illness.

“I’ve tried to read up on it as much as I can,” Coach Hatcher said, though his wife gave him much more credit than that.

Paul Hatcher became a walking encyclopedia on mental illness in general and what his wife endures in particular – with the same dedication to detail with x’s and o’s on the hardwood, if not more.

It was Judy who steered the conversation to basketball. We talked about the Hatchers dealing with college coaches, about the most famous upset in college-hoops history, when tiny Chaminade upset then-#1 UVa. in the Ralph Sampson era, led by a former R.E. Lee player, and how Hatcher’s phone rang off the hook with calls from sportswriters across the country looking for quotes early the next morning.

We eventually got back around to mental illness. Judy Hatcher is taking a commendable stand in going public with her struggle. Her husband plays a key role in those efforts.

“The more we understand this, the better off we’ll both be,” she told me of her mission to educate families on the role they can play in the lives of loved ones fighting through mental-health issues.

A lot has been written in the past couple of days about how Coach Hatcher’s teams won so many games over the years with defense. Now Coach gets to focus on offense as the Hatchers work to raise awareness of a key public-health issue.

augusta free press news
augusta free press news