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.
Yow, first diagnosed with the disease in 1987, died in the morning at WakeMed Cary Hospital after being admitted the previous week, university spokeswoman Annabelle Myers said.
"Everyone who had the privilege of knowing Kay Yow has a heavy heart today," North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler said in a statement. "She faced every opponent, whether on the basketball court or in a hospital room, with dignity and grace. She will be greatly missed."
Yow is survived by sisters Debbie Yow, the athletic director at Maryland, and Susan Yow, the women's basketball coach at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, and a brother, Ronnie.
Yow had a 737-344 record in 38 years - 34 years with the Wolfpack - in a career filled with milestones. She coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in 1988, won four Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles, earned 20 NCAA tournament bids and reached the Final Four in 1998.
She was also 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, 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.
"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 Yow's name.
Said Maryland women's coach Brenda Frese in a statement: "Coach Yow might be gone, but she's touched so many lives and inspired so many people that her legacy will live on forever. She's a giant in our game and for all the right reasons. ... Our hearts and thoughts are with the Yow and N.C. State families."
Born March 14, 1942, Sandra Kay Yow took up coaching to secure a job teaching high school English at Allen Jay High School in High Point, N.C., in the 1960s. Her boss, along with the boys coach, agreed to help her plan practices and to sit on the bench with her during games. Midway through the season, Yow was on her own.