Kay Yow, 66; basketball coach at N.C. State won more than 700 games
RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina State's Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame women's basketball coach who won more than 700 games while earning fans with her decades-long fight against breast cancer, died yesterday. She was 66.
Ms. Yow, first diagnosed with the disease in 1987, died yesterday morning at WakeMed Cary Hospital after being admitted last week, said Annabelle Myers, university spokeswoman.
"I think she understood that keeping going was inspirational to other people who were in the same boat," Dr. Mark Graham, Ms. Yow's longtime oncologist, said yesterday.
Ms. Yow won more than 700 games in a career filled with milestones. She coached the US Olympic team to a gold medal in 1988, won four Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships, earned 20 NCAA tournament bids, and reached the Final Four in 1998.
She also was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2002, and the school dedicated "Kay Yow Court" in Reynolds Coliseum in 2007.
But for many fans, Ms. Yow was best defined by her unwavering resolve while fighting cancer, from raising awareness and money for research to staying with her team through the debilitating effects of the disease and chemotherapy treatments.
She served on the board of the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded by ESPN and a friend and colleague, former N.C. State men's coach Jim Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993.
"Kay taught us all to live life with passion and to never give up," said fellow board member George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports. He said the network would remain committed to a research fund established in Ms. Yow's name.
"She's a driving force for what's going on today in the battle against cancer," ESPN commentator and former Notre Dame men's coach Digger Phelps said.
At Duke, one of N.C. State's closest ACC rivals, there was a moment of silence to honor Ms. Yow before the men's basketball game yesterday.
In her final months, Ms. Yow was on hormonal therapy as the cancer spread to her liver and bone. But she never flinched or complained, relying on her faith as the disease progressed. She commonly noted there were other patients with "harder battles than I'm fighting" and said it was inspiring for her to stay with her team.
"We're all faced with a lot of tough issues that we're dealing with," she said in a 2006 interview. "We know we need to just come to the court and let that be our catharsis in a way. You can't bring it on the court with you, but we can all just think of basketball as an escape for a few hours."
Ms. Yow announced earlier this month that she would not return to the team this season after she missed four games because of what was described as an extremely low energy level.
The team visited Ms. Yow in the hospital before leaving Wednesday for a game at Miami. Associate head coach Stephanie Glance - who led the team in Ms. Yow's absences - met with the team yesterday morning to inform them Ms. Yow had died, Myers said.
Her doctor remembered how Ms. Yow always took time to talk to other patients when she came in for treatments.
"She could have tried to come into the clinic and be completely anonymous," Graham said. "She just wanted to be another patient. She was very open to sharing her experiences with others and being encouraging to others.
Ms. Yow's fight was never more public than when she took a 16-game leave to focus on her treatments during the 2006-07 season. After her return, her inspired