Health keeps Yow out again

Updated: December 29, 2008, 4:37 PM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Stephanie Glance has almost grown accustomed to seeing how Kay Yow puts aside the pain and fatigue from her long battle with cancer to coach her North Carolina State players. Yet Glance is also not surprised when the Hall of Fame coach has to step away to focus on her health like she did Monday.

"If she could be here, she would," Glance said after the Wolfpack beat Jacksonville State 76-38 without their longtime coach on the bench. "She's pushing herself. People that don't have cancer would be fatigued at the rate she pushes herself."

Consider it the day-by-day nature of Yow's fight with a recurrence of the breast cancer she was diagnosed with more than two decades ago. She's missed two straight games due to health issues, and Glance -- the associate head coach who has filled in for Yow -- doesn't know whether she will be back to coach Wednesday's game against Georgetown.

Yow, 66, sat out last week's game against Columbia in New York because of cold temperatures that makes normally tolerable symptoms worse. She said she felt better after returning to North Carolina and that she hoped to coach against Jacksonville State, but issued a statement about three hours before tipoff Monday saying she would not be on the sideline.

Yow said she made the decision after speaking with her oncologist, Dr. Mark Graham, and NC State athletic director Lee Fowler.

"My energy level is still not where it needs to be to complete all of what is expected as the head coach of this program," she said.

Glance said Yow told her Sunday night that she would not be able to coach. Glance told the team before the victory, which marked the 700th in program history.

"It's a distraction just because it's a very serious disease and a very serious situation, so emotionally everybody is dealing with that," Glance said. "But they mirror her. She never gets down and she never shows any kind of negative emotion. She's completely positive and she's very upbeat about it.

"For all of us, the players and the staff, it's very difficult to feel sorry for her or ourselves because that's certainly not something she wants."

Yow ranks as one of the game's winningest coaches with 735 career victories in 38 years. She has also coached the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal in 1988, and earned four ACC tournament championships, 20 NCAA tournament bids and an appearance in the 1998 Final Four during her 34 years at NC State.

Her health is a lingering issue that has hovered over the program since the disease first recurred during the 2004-05 season. In November 2006, doctors said her cancer was progressing, a diagnosis that forced her to miss 16 games to focus on treatment. She returned to lead her team to an emotional late-season run -- which included an upset of top-ranked Duke and an appearance in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 -- despite undergoing heavy rounds of chemotherapy.

In October, she spent five days in the hospital after her body struggled to adjust to a change in her treatment, but said then that she feels her best during basketball season because "I have tunnel vision and I forget everything else about my body."

Glance said Yow hadn't missed any practices or key team activities until the Columbia game.

Nora Lynn Finch, a friend of Yow's who spent three decades working as a women's administrator at NC State, said she spoke with Yow on Friday and that the coach had been battling chest congestion through the holiday season.

"When she was in New York, she got a lot of congestion and just doesn't seem to be able to shake it," said Finch, who now works for the Atlantic Coast Conference. "She has very little immune system, so things hit her harder than they do us."

There was no mention of Yow during pregame introductions except for the players running out onto "Kay Yow Court," which was dedicated in Reynolds Coliseum in 2007. Her players also showed little sign of nerves, taking a 30-8 first-half lead and cruising the rest of the way.

"I feel like the team is responding well to her being gone and everything she's going through," said senior Shayla Fields, who had a game-high 21 points. "I feel like if we're fighting for her, she gets uplifted and she feels a little better."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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