RALEIGH, NC -- These days, everyone is a fan of Kay Yow.
North Carolina State players were cheered as they strode onto
their home court at the NCAA Tournament. Yet fans seemed hesitant
to let loose, and many looked toward the tunnel awaiting their
When coach Yow finally emerged, fans roared their approval with
a standing ovation. The cheers came from Duke fans lingering from
the earlier game and Baylor fans planning to root against the
Wolfpack minutes later.
These days, the Hall of Fame coach with more than 700 career
victories is being saluted for her graceful and courageous fight
against cancer. Her players, wearing pink shoelaces, are preparing
for the program's first trip to the round of 16 in six years.
"Nationally, it is realized that she is battling for her
life,'' said Nora Lynn Finch, a senior associate athletic director
and senior women's administrator at NC State. "Every person is
touched by cancer in some way, and everybody is paying attention to
Kay Yow -- how she is battling the disease, how she is coaching her
team and how she is faring.
"Right now, everybody is a fan for Kay Yow because everybody is
pulling for her to make it.''
Heading into Saturday's game (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) against top-seeded Connecticut in
the Fresno Regional, NC State (25-9) has won 12 of 14 games since
Yow returned from a 16-game leave because of cancer treatment. She
was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and it first recurred
during the 2004-05 season, forcing her to miss two games while
attending an eight-day nutritional modification program.
She has remained courtside as much as possible, though it hasn't
been easy. She has almost weekly chemotherapy sessions, and the
treatments have weakened her. She left practice on a stretcher in
February after an adverse reaction from a drug to treat the side
effects of chemotherapy.
The Wolfpack's run of three games in three days during the
Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final earlier this month left
her drained and so hoarse she could barely talk.
Through it all, she has spent most of the games sitting on the
bench while associate head coach Stephanie Glance -- who led the
team during both of Yow's absences -- stands to shout instructions
at players. At times, Yow is helped to her feet by Glance because
of numbness in her toes.
The day the NCAA field was announced, her father, Hilton, died
at 87 of congestive heart failure.
Yet Yow has remained -- as Glance coined -- "The Iron Woman.''
Asked if there was a chance she wouldn't make the cross-country
flight with her team after its second-round win over Baylor, Yow
broke into an almost "Are you serious?'' grin.
"There's not a chance,'' she said with a chuckle. "I'd have to
take a real turn here in the next day or two.''
The school will send a nurse along with Yow to California, and
her oncologist said he modified her treatments this week to
hopefully give her more strength throughout the tournament.
"I just wanted her to feel as well as possible,'' said Dr. Mark
Graham, who called Yow's treatments life-extending'' instead of
curative. "It's a long trip for anybody to make.''
This season's success is one of many milestones in Yow's 36-year
career, with 32 in Raleigh. Her résumé already includes coaching
the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in 1988, winning four ACC
tournament championships, earning 20 NCAA Tournament bids, reaching
the 1998 Final Four and being inducted into the Naismith Hall of
Fame in 2002.
Last month, NC State beat rival North Carolina on the night
the school dedicated "Kay Yow Court'' in Reynolds Coliseum. Then
the Wolfpack handed top-ranked Duke its only loss of the season in
the ACC tournament semifinals. Both teams ended up No. 1 seeds in
the NCAA tournament.
The most recent high point came Tuesday night, when the
fourth-seeded Wolfpack held off fifth-seeded Baylor 78-72 in
overtime. That gave NC State -- which had lost in the first round
of the tournament in each of the past three seasons -- its first
trip to the round of 16 since 2001.
Afterward, several Baylor players hugged Yow shortly before the
Wolfpack players excitedly did the same. Photographers gathered
around and took shot after shot on the court, while the fans
serenaded them all with another standing ovation.
One fan held a sign that read "Kay Yow=My Hero.'' Several
others wore pink, the color designated for breast cancer awareness.
Yow then turned to the crowd, smiled and triumphantly extended
both arms to hold up the Wolfpack hand gestures.
This was her moment.
"This is huge,'' senior guard Ashley Key said. "I mean, just
for the look on her face after the game. She looked like a kid in a