Tributes, and Tears, Still Flow for K. Yow
Thursday, February 5, 2009
It wasn't always easy for Debbie and Kay Yow to find time to see each other in person, considering the demanding nature of their respective jobs. But whenever the North Carolina State women's basketball team played at Maryland, Debbie -- in her 15th year as the Terrapins' athletic director -- and Kay -- who spent 34 seasons as the Wolfpack's coach -- would meet up for a mid-morning or early-afternoon coffee.
"We had to develop a system that would work for us," Debbie Yow said Tuesday. "After the game didn't work well because one of us had lost."
The two sisters won't meet today, prior to 13th-ranked Maryland's game against N.C. State. Kay Yow, 66, died Jan. 24 after a 20-year battle with breast cancer. A three-minute video tribute to the Hall of Fame coach will be played during halftime of tonight's game.
Yow's death was felt throughout basketball, and there are daily reminders for both Debbie Yow and the N.C. State program.
"Yes, this is the week after, but it doesn't feel like that," N.C. State interim coach Stephanie Glance said. "I think this is a major kind of life-changing event, and for the people in our program, it definitely will be a daily process that we'll continue to work through. It's kind of undefined, what we're talking about."
The days immediately following Yow's death were difficult. N.C. State was supposed to play at Wake Forest on Monday, Jan. 26; that game was postponed to Feb. 17, and instead the players and coaches spent the day at the mall, buying clothes for Yow's funeral.
The team held practice Tuesday night, attended an on-campus tribute Wednesday and then hosted Boston College, a 62-51 loss, on Thursday night. The public viewing and funeral was Friday in Cary, a suburb of Raleigh, and the burial was Saturday in Gibsonville, about an hour's drive west. On Sunday, the Wolfpack played at Virginia Tech and picked up its first ACC victory, 57-46.
"It's been a very emotional experience," senior guard Shayla Fields said. "I don't think it's going to get any easier. The spotlight is going to be on us to represent Coach Yow, and I just think that it's going to be hard. I feel like us sticking together as a team, our coaching staff being there for us, our fan support . . . that's going to make it easier for one another."
Glance is trying to keep things as normal as possible for the players in terms of practice and game preparation, and there are times she'll remind them of something that Yow taught them or something that Yow said. But finding a balance between working and grieving is not easy, particularly for Glance, who is in her 15th season at N.C. State.
The ACC is particularly competitive this season, with six teams with just one or two losses in league play. The Wolfpack was 8-7 overall when Yow announced that she would be stepping down for the remainder of the season Jan. 6, just before conference play began; the team is 1-5 since, with overtime losses to then-No. 4 Duke and then-No. 2 North Carolina.
"I have a responsibility to be the caretaker of the program and the players. I am humbled by that, I realize what a great responsibility that is," said Glance, who served as interim coach for 16 games during the 2006-07 season when Yow took a health-related leave of absence. "I want to absolutely do my very best at filling that role. But I'm also in the position of, I lost a really good friend."
Glance encourages the players to talk about their emotions, but she also recognizes that people grieve in different ways. "For some players, it's very comforting to be on the court, it makes them feel closer to Coach Yow. But some players, it makes them more emotional," she said.