Jan. 24, 2009

Courtesy of North Carolina State

RALEIGH, N.C. -- One of the most beloved figures in NC State history and one of the most respected coaches in the nation, Women’s Basketball Coach Kay Yow, died peacefully this morning after a long, heroic battle with breast cancer.

Yow, 66, had been supported by her family and her staff in the last several days and was even able to visit with her entire team at WakeMed Cary Hospital earlier this week.

Yow, who was in her 38th year of coaching, will be remembered for the hundreds and thousands of lives she touched through basketball and through her tireless efforts to fight cancer.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Coach Yow for the last 15 seasons. I suddenly find myself grasping to retain everything she has ever said and ever taught me, said interim head coach Stephanie Glance.

”Each of us who has had the special opportunity to learn from her and share wonderful friendships with her now has a special part of Coach Yow in us that will live on as long as we pay it forward and mirror her legacy of always giving to others. She has instilled in each of us what it means to be winners as people, and if we are winners as people then we will have our best shot at winning on the court. I know I speak for all former and current players and staff when I say with a swell of heartfelt emotion that she will truly be missed each moment of everyday."

Yow announced Jan. 6 that she would not return to the team this season as she continued her fight against a disease she was first diagnosed with in 1987. She said at the time it was one of the hardest decisions she has ever had to make.

The Hall of Fame coach had been in the hospital on the recommendation of her oncologist, Dr. Mark Graham, who cited it, was in her best interest to get the proper care she needed at the time.

The disease first recurred during the 2004-05 season, forcing her to miss two games that year and 16 more in the 2006-07 season.

Yow had missed four straight games this season before taking leave with what was described as an extremely low energy level.

“Everyone who had the privilege of knowing Kay Yow has a heavy heart today,” said Lee Fowler, Director of Athletics at NC State.  “Her record and the honors she has received over the years are evidence of her abilities as a coach, but the former student-athletes who come back year after year and bring their children to visit her are a testament to the type of person she was. She was a blessing to many people because of her strong faith. She faced every opponent, whether on the basketball court or in a hospital room, with dignity and grace. She will be greatly missed.”

A native of Gibsonville, N.C., Yow led the U.S. women’s basketball team to a gold medal in 1988, directed her Wolfpack club to the 1998 Final Four and in 2002, became just the fifth female coach inducted into the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

"We have lost a great person, coach, leader and friend," said Chancellor James Oblinger.  "Coach Yow’s courage, passion for her work, strength and humility despite her personal challenges inspired all of us. She epitomized what a coach and role model should be.  Her influence will be felt for years to come.  The Wolfpack Nation and everyone who followed her successes on the court and her struggles off the court were blessed by Kay Yow’s life.  She will be profoundly missed."

She entered her 34th season as head mentor of the Wolfpack women’s program in 2008-09. Her NC State record of 680-325 left her as one of only three women’s coaches at the Division I level to coach 1,000 games at one institution. On Dec. 14 in a victory over Ole Miss, Coach Yow took her place alongside legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and former Texas coach Jody Condradt.

Yow’s all-time collegiate record of 737-344 spanned 38 seasons, four with Elon College. She was one of just six coaches to ever compile over 700 victories and began this season as the most tenured coach in the active ranks.

There is really no right place to begin talking about Coach Yow. Her accomplishments extend beyond the basketball world, but it is within that world that she has become so accomplished.

Yow guided her squads to 20 NCAA Tournaments, 11 trips to the Sweet 16, and a trip to the Elite Eight and Final Four in 1998. She collected five (1978, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1990) Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championships, four (1980, 1985, 1987, 1991) ACC Tournament titles, amassed 21, 20-win seasons and a staggering 29 winning seasons.

In December 2007, the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in partnership with The V Foundation was established as a charitable organization committed to finding an answer in the fight against women’s cancers. She was also involved in the creation of “Hoops 4 Hope”, a basketball game centered around a cure for breast cancer. The fourth annual game will take place Feb. 15 at Reynolds Coliseum.

Yow was forced to take a leave of absence because of progression in her breast cancer and missed roughly two months (16 games) of the 2006-07 season, but fought back to make a triumphant return to the bench in a win over long-time rival Virginia on January 26, 2007. Later on that season in a win over No. 2-ranked North Carolina, the Reynolds Coliseum court was christened “Kay Yow Court”.

In 1975, Yow was hired by Willis Casey to be the head coach of the women’s basketball program at NC State. She was installed as the head coach of both the softball and volleyball teams and was the coordinator of women's sports - all while developing women’s basketball in its infancy.

Yow will always be recognized as one of the most admired and respected coaches that ever competed on the national and international scene. She was a leader, role model, mentor, coach, supporter, community friend and entrepreneur. As for women’s basketball history, Yow’s name will most certainly be delivered in the same breath as those words forever more. She was there for the implementation of Title IX and the first NCAA Tournament in 1982. Yow never relented her pursuit to improve the sport of women’s basketball despite all of her achievements. The game was good to her, but more importantly, Yow was instrumental for the game.

Other Quotes:

John Swofford- ACC commissioner
“What an impact Kay had on so many. Whether one of her players, an opposing coach, a friend, an associate in the world of sports or one who observed her grace, dignity, elegance, kindness and competitive spirit from a distance, you couldn’t help but be touched by her presence in our world. Kay was a very special lady. All of us associated with the ACC will miss her immensely, and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, loved ones and team.

Beth Bass - WBCA CEO
“Words cannot even begin to express the impact that Coach Yow had on me personally and on this Association. I have known her for 32 years, and she is by far one of the most amazing people I have had the opportunity to get to know.  Her legacy and impact will continue to live on even in her passing through her Foundation leading us toward a cure.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family.  This is a very sad day for all of us.”

Marsha Sharp - Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Cund President
“What a sad day for all of us with the loss of such a dear coach, friend and mentor, Kay Yow. It is humbling to serve as the President of the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, and to have the opportunity to uphold her legacy of faith, integrity, inspiration and leadership through the Fund.  I am positive that she would want us all to unite and find a way to continue the battle that she fought for years.  We WILL find a cure for cancer.”

Nick Valvano - CEO of The V Foundation for Cancer Research
“I am honored to have a Fund established in partnership with The V Foundation that bears the name of Kay Yow. Her courage, faith and legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of those she helped to inspire throughout her coaching career and battle with cancer.”