A Coach’s First Season: “More than a basketball game”

February 14, 2010
By admin
A storage bin that holds equipment for the Wolfpack women's basketball team. (Photo by Peyton Williams)

A storage bin that holds equipment for the Wolfpack women's basketball team. (Photo by Peyton Williams)

The NC State women’s basketball team will host Miami today at 5:30 p.m. in Reynolds Coliseum for the fifth annual Hoops for Hope, an event former NC State coach Kay Yow created to raise awareness about breast cancer. It’ll feature a tribute to Yow, who died in January 2009; a silent auction; a march of survivors at halftime; and the ACC matchup between the Wolfpack (13-11, 3-6) and Hurricanes (16-8, 3-6), which will be televised by ESPN2. Yesterday, 11 former NC State players participated in the annual Wolfpack alumni game part of the Hoops for Hope weekend. The N&O has a story on it. Some things others that have been written about Hoops for Hope include this and this. One snippet of one article (from a GoPack.com):

But [NC State women’s basketball coach Kellie Harper] also knows that it is her duty to continue the momentum Yow created for this event, which regularly draws a sellout crowd to Reynolds Coliseum. . . .

“The event has been unbelievably successful for the last few years,” Harper said. “We don’t want to do anything to take away from that. Obviously, Coach Yow and her inspiration were huge draws for people. What we hope is that her legacy and her charge will continue to draw people to this event and to this cause.

“Hopefully, people realize that this is more than a basketball game. It’s an opportunity to give to and to support a great cause.”

Here is our contribution as part of our ongoing series, A Coach’s First Season: We’ve compiled some of the things people have said about Kay Yow throughout the season (ranging from Tennessee coach Pat Summitt to former NC State player Debbie Mulligan Antonelli ’86 to the players on the current team) as part of our ongoing series, A Coach’s First Season. Find that compilation after the jump.

And, immediately below we have an excerpt from an interview that NC State magazine did with Yow in spring 2007 in which she talks about the hardest thing she ever had to do: watch her mother battle cancer.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Watch my mother suffer with cancer, because she had cancer in the 1980s and through the early 1990s. There just wasn’t much that could help her. They didn’t have the kind of antinausea medicine they have now for treatment, and she would be so sick after her treatment. Watching her take chemo and go through such a tough time. And then watching the last 15 days of her life.

How did that experience change you and prepare you for your own battle with cancer?
It made my faith grow deeper because I had to depend on the Lord to take care of her. As much as I tried to take care of her or wanted to, what I could do was limited. I just had to pray a lot to him. And just trust. But he was giving her peace and joy in the midst of a really, really tough time.

On Kay Yow

A compilation of some of the things that have been said about Kay Yow during the course of our interviews for the ongoing series, A Coach’s First Season.

“Kay Yow is and will always be a legend.” – NC State women’s basketball coach Kellie Harper

“The chance to play for Kay Yow, you can’t go wrong with that. . . . Her illness resurfaced my freshman year. I know my class, we’ve been through a lot, so it’s been tough. But we hung in there and stood it out. – NC State senior Sharnise Beal

It’s emotional. There are constant reminders every day. I still have pictures of Coach Yow in my room. And when I see pink anything, it makes me think of her. We still have a lot of people who come up to us to express their support and concern, and I get emotional. – junior forward Tia Bell

Coach Yow was a wonderful person; playing for her was a blessing. [She taught me] perseverance—and to push through any little thing. – senior guard Nikitta Gartrell
One of the things Coach Yow taught me was that you fake it until you feel it. Even you don’t believe it right then, after a while, you’ll get it. The more you do it, the more you feel comfortable, the better you get at it.— redshirt junior guard Amber White

“I think Kay had an incredible impact on all of us in the women’s game. I have tremendous respect for Coach Yow. She is one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had and one of the best assistant coaches I’ve ever worked with. . . . She was my assistant coach in Los Angeles when [the U.S. women’s basketball team] won the gold medal, and she taught me a lot more than I taught her. . . . She taught me how to step back and allow the two players that played at Tennessee who made the Olympic team to enjoy the process and to not to try to coach them every day and make an example out of them. When we were training, there was a time she would say, “I think this session needs to be over.” As a head coach, feeling the weight of the world to bring home a gold medal, I thought more was better. And I learned that less is more. Coach Yow taught me that. – Tennessee coach Pat Summitt

I’m . . . on the board of directors for her fund, which is also very important to me because I have the chance to be a part of influencing others to give to her fund and find a cure for cancer. Cancer has touched all of us, and I know that’s part of her fulfilling her legacy is to help make a difference. . . . I know that she is counting on me and many others to do the right thing, and she’s always expected that. — former NC State player and ESPN basketball analyst Debbie Mulligan Antonelli ’86

It’s just not the same over here without Kay. Of course, I’ve got my pin on and I wore it in honor of Kay. And I don’t mean anything bad with the new staff. I like Kellie, and I think they are doing a great, great job. I just don’t think people give Kay enough credit for what she did for everybody — for women’s basketball, for other coaches, for NC State, for all the former players. There are a lot of things that people will never know what Kay did. It’s just not the same over here without her. We all, all the coaches, miss her a lot. – UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell

I’m going to be honest with you. Once the game began, I don’t really think about [Kay Yow]. But it was before, the realization that after many, many years, there’s somebody else leading the Pack now, and they look a little different. You know, they don’t look very similar. (She laughs.) But Kay hasn’t left the cupboard bare. There are some nice athletes there, and I know that [former assistant coach Stephanie Glance] did a great job bringing in some players as well. I think the tradition will continue, and it will certainly go on and on and on. What a tradition it was. – Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry

I asked the players the similarities and differences between [Coach Yow and Coach Harper]. The players said, “Well, Kellie is younger.” And she is! She’s 32. But one of the similarities [is] character and off-the-course expectations, behavior and how the athletes will represent NC State. [Coach Harper] told me, for example, that on the court she doesn’t use profanity. From the basketball standpoint, there will be some scheme differences, and that will be interesting to watch. We have to wait and see how it might be different and look different. – veteran sportswriter A.J. Carr


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