NC State Selects First-Ever Hall of Fame Class | Complete Bios
“Destiny is not a matter of chance,” William Jennings Bryan wrote. “It is a matter of choice. It is not something wished for, it is something to be achieved.”
RALEIGH, N.C. - NC State Hall of Athletic Fame inductee, the late Kay Yow, the Wolfpack’s women’s basketball coach from 1975-2009, left a legacy that is almost incomprehensible when one examines her accomplishments and achievements.
And yet, with Yow, the first thing most people think about is her top priority of helping others.
Her efforts as a coach produced a career record of 737-344 and 680-325 at State; four ACC Tournament titles and five regular-season championships; 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 Sweet Sixteens; 1998 Final Four; 21 20-win seasons at State.
Internationally, she guided the United States’ Olympic women’s basketball team to gold medals in the 1986 Goodwill Games, the 1987 World University Games and, in the crowning achievement of her USA Basketball coaching career, in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
It was, however, the way in she achieved, coached and influenced players, coaches, administrators and patrons that solidified her legacy.
Through the focused lenses of her Christian faith, Yow placed great value on others.
“Her greatest achievement were the lessons taught to her State athletes, many of whom admire her today,” said her sister, NC State director of athletics Deborah A. Yow.
Another State Hall of Athletic Fame Inductee, Genia Beasley, remembers Yow as always being “down to earth and polite to everybody.” The first blue-chip Yow recruit recalls her meticulous, relentless drills as well as her thinking as always being “outside the box”.
Yow’s biggest opponent wasn’t another team. It was the breast cancer she began battling in 1987. She lost her mom, Lib Yow, and close friend Jim Valvano in 1993 to the disease.
Despite taking her appetite, energy and many activities, cancer never captured her relentless spirit bolstered by her Christian faith.
Valvano’s famous words – “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up” – continued to ring in her ears. And she continued giving to others even in the midst of pain and suffering.
Yow was a “Greatest Generation” baby – born in Gibsonville, N.C., in 1942 and raised by parents who stressed the work ethic and love of country. Her mother operated a beauty salon while her father worked as a machinist prior to his entry into the United States Navy.
Girls basketball was popular in the 1930s and ‘40s, especially to kids whose parents were blue-collar workers. Females in those years were used to hard work – many growing up on farms or in industrial towns.
Yow had a basketball in her hands at an early age and honed her shooting skills. She once scored 52 points once in a high school game. However, she had no idea of what loomed ahead – even when she attended East Carolina College to study in English in order to become a high school teacher.
Landing a teaching job at Allen Jay High School in High Point, N.C., Yow also agreed to coach the girls basketball team. She guided the team to a championship and got her master’s degree from UNC Greensboro, a move that helped her land a head coaching job at nearby Elon College in 1971.
There she coached her two younger sisters, Deborah and Susan. After an initial season at 5-11, Yow’s Fighting Christians went on a tear with records of 13-3, 20-1, and 19-4.
NC State athletics director Willis Casey came calling in 1974, shortly after passage of Title IX, hiring Yow as the first full-time coach in the state of North Carolina. Yow took over the one-year-old basketball program and started volleyball and slow-pitch softball programs.
Yow loved being a coach, but she never forgot her roots as a teacher.
“Kay’s influence on women in athletics is far reaching,” Debbie Yow said. “She was a role model when most needed, in the ‘70s when Title IX was new. She proved that women could successfully coach at the collegiate level – and did so with grace and honor.”
The fruit of her labor resulted in some very distinguished awards, including the ESPY Award for Perseverance, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, John Wooden Award Winner, Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award, the highest honor in women’s sports, and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
She was also the first administrator of women’s sports in ACC history. The court at historic William Neal Reynolds Coliseum was named “Kay Yow Court” in 2007.
As part of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund has raised more than seven million dollars through various activities, including the Hoops4Hope basketball game, the 4Kay Golf Tournament, and the annual Kay Yow Spring Football Game.
By George Cox, GoPack.com