Mel Evans/AP

Kay Yow, Women's Basketball Coach

January 27, 2009
by Liz Colville
Longtime North Carolina State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow passed away on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, after a 20-year battle with breast cancer. Below are some key links to biographies, interviews and multimedia with the famed coach.

Bringing Women’s Basketball to Center Court

In the New York Times obituary of Yow, Richard Goldstein observes that Yow came to the helm of women’s basketball coaching when the sport was “barely noticed as a national sport.” By the time she left this year, she had racked up 737 wins—tying for sixth on the all-time list—and 344 losses.

Yow led the women’s Olympic team to a gold medal at the Seoul Games in 1988. In 2000, she received the Wooden award for Division I women’s basketball coach of the year; in 2002, she was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 2007, she received the Naismith Award for Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Basketball and shared the Bob Bradley Spirit & Courage Award with Virginia coach Debbie Ryan, a fellow cancer survivor. Yow was named Coach of the Year numerous times by the Wooden Association, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).

More on her major accomplishments over the decades is available in the North Carolina State Wolfpack biography of Yow.

Yow’s Campaign off the Court

Alongside her tireless efforts for NC State, Yow became a crucial figurehead for breast cancer awareness, prevention and treatment. From her respected positions at NC State and in the WBCA, Yow brought the national breast cancer campaign onto the court, where her players often dressed in pink, the signature color of breast cancer awareness. Sites like Girls Got Game now sell pink basketball uniforms, apparel and accessories that can help teams spread the message, with a portion of the sale going to the fund Yow started.

The WBCA/Kay Yow Cancer Fund partners with the V Foundation for Cancer Research to find “an answer in the fight against women's cancers through raising money for scientific research, assisting the underserved and unifying people for a common cause.” On the fund’s Web page, find information about donating, planning fundraisers or attending events like the 4Kay Run, which takes place during the  Women’s Final Four.

Tributes to Yow Flood In

The NC State Wolfpack Web site published an obituary of Yow and included quotes from the coaches, friends and peers who knew Yow. Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt took the opportunity to praise Yow for her work establishing the WBCA/Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Summit said, “Kay never allowed herself to be victimized by cancer … Instead, she tried to bring awareness to the horrible disease that was robbing her of her life. … She made a difference in the lives of so many people, not just the life lessons she shared with her student-athletes at Elon or North Carolina State.”

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