Yow, NC State continue to turn the downs into ups

Updated: March 13, 2007, 2:43 AM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Kay Yow sat in the middle of the room, watching the NCAA Tournament selections with her North Carolina State players and sharing their cheers when the Wolfpack appeared on the TV screen.

She clapped and smiled. She remained focused and composed while giving a televised interview. At first glance, one would have never guessed that Yow's father had passed away earlier that day.

It was a glimpse of the resolve that has come to define the Hall of Fame coach during a trying few months. She's fighting a recurrence of cancer she was first diagnosed with 20 years ago, yet she's still roaming the sidelines and has the Wolfpack back in the tournament for the 10th time in 12 years.

"If a person lives long enough, it's inevitable you're going to go through some tough times in life," Yow said Monday night. "You can't change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sail. I have zero control over my dad's death, but I have 100 percent control over how I'll respond to it. I know that about everything: my cancer, my dad, the team loses, the team wins."

NC State earned a No. 4 seed in the Fresno Regional and opens at home against 13th-seeded Robert Morris on Sunday. The Wolfpack (23-9) has won 10 of 12 games since Yow returned from a 16-game leave of absence for treatment of cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 1987 and first recurred during the 2004-05 season. She has fought through almost-weekly chemotherapy sessions to be with her team, and has another round scheduled for Wednesday -- her 65th birthday.

She also has begun work to prepare for the funeral of her father, Hilton, who died Monday. Hilton Yow, 87, had congestive heart failure and had been in and out of the hospital in recent weeks, she said.

All that comes as her Wolfpack prepares to open the NCAA Tournament at the RBC Center, located just a short drive off campus.

"She's the Iron Woman, with the Lord's help," said associate head coach Stephanie Glance, who led the Wolfpack during Yow's absence. "She's just persevering. It's unbelievable."

As always, Yow sounds more focused on her team, which she said has regrouped after losing to the Tar Heels in the ACC tournament final. But she admits the break gave her a chance to recover from the three-games-in-three-days event, which left her drained and so tired she could barely talk.

"This break definitely gave them a chance to get their legs under them," she said. "They have been playing on emotion, but I think they found out what they can do when they play with emotion and when they give everything they have."

As for playing at home, senior Ashley Key thinks that was more important for Yow than the players.

"She doesn't have to travel but a few minutes down the road," Key said. "She gets to rest and she'll have a lot of fans behind her."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press