'Hoops 4 Hope' continues Yow's legacy
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The door to Kay Yow's office in Reynolds Coliseum remains open, the lights on inside. It's as though the Hall of Fame coach has merely stepped away from her desk to grab lunch or run a brief errand.
To make a donation to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, visit www.JimmyV.org.
Less than three weeks after her death, Yow's presence is still felt strongly in the North Carolina State women's basketball program she left behind. And that might never be more true than this weekend when the Wolfpack hold the annual event Yow created to raise awareness of the disease that ultimately took her life.
Sunday marks the fourth "Hoops 4 Hope" game, which helps raise money for the cancer research fund in Yow's name. The event is sold out for the first time, bringing Yow's long fight back to the forefront once again.
"She always looked at this as a game that would provide hope for so many cancer survivors and for so many people who are having difficulties in their lives," said interim coach Stephanie Glance, an assistant to Yow for 15 seasons. "There's such great energy and such great cause that it's so uplifting."
That energy is something Glance figures her team needs as it continues to grieve heading into Sunday's game against No. 15 Virginia. The Wolfpack (10-14, 2-7 ACC) has lost eight of 10 games, a stretch that began when Yow had to take leave from the team in December due to extremely low energy. She later announced she wouldn't return this season before being admitted to a hospital, where she spent about a week before her death Jan. 24.
Yow was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. The disease recurred during the 2004-05 season and lingered in the years since.
The first "Hope" game came against Maryland in 2006 and raised $27,000 through donations and auctions for a local chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The next year, the event raised about $44,000.
Last season was the first in which the proceeds went to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, created in December 2007. The event raised more than $42,000 last season.
During halftime of Sunday's game, breast cancer survivors are invited to walk onto the court in a display meant to give hope to those fighting the disease.
The Yow/WBCA fund operates in partnership with The V Foundation, the organization named after former NC State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993. Both Valvano and Yow handled their fights against the disease publicly, speaking about the importance of raising money to find life-extending treatments and possibly a cure.
It was a parallel that Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski noted on the day of Yow's death, saying, "I don't think any area of the country has brought an awareness to the fight against cancer better than this one."
Nick Valvano, Jim's brother and chief executive officer of The V Foundation, sees those similarities, too. In his office in nearby Cary sits a framed black-and-white picture of Valvano and Yow together in the 1980s.
"There were some very eerie moments because I would be sitting having a conversation with Kay and I would say to her, 'I cannot believe I had the same conversation with Jim almost word for word.' Kay said to me the last time I saw her, 'Something good has to come out of this,' and Jim said the same thing: 'I have to do something so something good comes out of it.'
"That's not the average thinking. People don't say that. They say, 'Why me?' Not these two people, which is probably why they were great coaches. They were trying to get to people and make them better."
Those memories are helping Glance grind through these emotional weeks. So too does the thought that nearly all of Yow's former players will attend this weekend's game, which has doubled as a reunion weekend and a tribute to Yow in years past.
Now, with Yow gone, it will take on even more significance as they share funny stores, laughter and tears.
It's why Glance suddenly found herself standing in Yow's office the day after her death. She couldn't explain why as she stared at all the pictures, awards and memorabilia -- including a framed letter from Yow's idol, famed UCLA coach John Wooden.
Glance said the office door will remain open the rest of the season.
"It was comforting to me," she said. "Others [on staff] would say they don't want to go in there because it makes them sad. But for me, I wanted to be in there, look around and take everything in.
"When everybody will feel the same way will be when we have to pack up her things and it's no longer her office, and we'll be very sad. Right now, it's just like it was, but it won't be like that much longer."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
MORE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL HEADLINES
- Sun make Ogwumike top pick in WNBA draft
- Sun deal 2012 WNBA MVP Charles to Liberty
- NCAA council OKs unlimited meals, snacks
- Administrators: NCAA system must change