Kay Yow Set to be Enshrined in Basketball Hall of Fame
Sept. 26, 2002
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C.-During a spectacular career that has produced 625 victories, NC State women's basketball coach Kay Yow has encountered the most difficult challenges her sport can offer. Challenges like gold medal games in the Olympics and at the world championships. Challenges like a Final Four game against a highly ranked opponent. Challenges like road games in hostile ACC venues in late February. But the difficulty of those assignments paled in comparison to the task given to her by the Basketball Hall of Fame. Exactly how does one recap a lifetime that has been filled with triumphs, defeats and wonderful memories in just five minutes? Kay Yow will give it her best shot upon entering the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night.
"The first speech I wrote was 15 minutes long, and that was out of the question," Yow said. "From that point I've been trying to narrow it down and get it closer to five minutes. There's so much I would like to say. Mainly, it's that I'm going to the Hall of Fame to pay tribute to so many other people who have made it possible for me to be standing there. If there is any way to share it (the honor), I would like to. As a coach I have to play my role and play it well, but I have to have so much help. To have very special people in all those positions allows me to be a part of something great."
In 1975, women's basketball had not yet experienced the growth spurt it enjoys today. That year, NC State athletics director Willis Casey began searching for a new coach to oversee his women's basketball program. He eventually settled on Kay Yow, who was starting to make a name for herself as a successful coach at Elon College.
"I had no idea what I was getting into," Yow recalls. "The day I accepted that job, he said: 'You need to order 18 home uniforms, 18 away uniforms and 18 warm-ups,' I hadn't even had warm-ups anywhere I had coached. We had bought our own uniforms and ironed our numbers on. When he made that one statement to me, I realized this is going to be really different. It's also the first job where I hadn't taught when I coached. I had always been teaching; I was a professor at Elon. When he said that, I knew I was just coaching. That just blew me away."
Though she can't remember exactly what she was paid in 1975, Yow recalls that it was well below $10,000.
Twenty-seven years and 568 victories later, Yow's compensation is more than 10 times what it was the day Casey told her to order those uniforms. And if she was amazed by the requirements of her new job, what might she have thought if someone back then would have predicted that she would one day be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame? On Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts, that impossible dream will come true when Gibsonville, North Carolina's and NC State's own Kay Yow tries to squeeze her induction speech into a five-minute window.
The same strong emotions that left Yow speechless when she was recognized by NC State athletics director Lee Fowler during an all staff meeting could be even more profound once she takes the stage for her Hall of Fame remarks.
"[Lee] called me down to the front and ask me to say a few words and I could say nothing," Yow said. "I was overwhelmed and couldn't speak. After that, I got to thinking, if that happened in the staff meeting, what will happen at the Hall of Fame? I feel like emotion will flood me. I just hope that I can say strongly what I want to say at that time."
It will be said with class, humility and dignity--the same qualities that have allowed coach Yow to handle all of the other challenges she's faced during a splendid 38-year career.
A Classy Class: Yow will enter the Hall with an impressive class that includes former Lakers great Magic Johnson; Arizona head coach Lute Olson; longtime NBA and college coach Larry Brown; the late Drazen Petrovic; and the legendary Harlem Globetrotters.
"I love my classmates," Yow said. "Actually, I have a connection with all of them so it's really special for me."
Coach Yow on her Hall of Fame Classmates:
Drazen Petrovic: "Drazen was playing on those Yugoslavian teams part of those nine summers I was coaching USA teams, so I had a close up look at Drazen. I knew he was going to make his mark and he certainly did. I met his mom in Los Angeles and she'll be accepting for him. It's a special family. He has a nephew that they say might be better than he was. That's something for them to look forward too."
Coach Lute Olson: "From afar I have admired and respected coach Olson for the way that he coached his teams and for who is was as a person. He too has great admiration for coach [John] Wooden, so we share that."
Coach Larry Brown: "I've known him since the old ABA days. You remember the Carolina Cougars? I met him all the way back then. He coached some USA teams and I was able to go out and watch his teams practice. He really took great care of me and I really appreciate that."
Magic Johnson: "Wow. It's awesome. I had a chance to eat beside him at a luncheon in Los Angeles when we were out there. The way Magic has touched my life is the passion with which he played the game and showing that you could have fun at the top level. His expertise, passion and fun for the game are what I think basketball is all about. It's excelling and loving it; it's never work. If you played with him you really had to focus because you didn't know where the next pass was coming from. I thought he did a lot for the game."
The Harlem Globetrotters: "I'm told they're the first team that's been inducted into the Hall of Fame in over 40 years. I can't even count on my hands the number of times I have seen the Harlem Globetrotters. Since I was a little kid, I've been going to see the Harlem Globetrotters. Meadowlark Lemon plays in the Jimmy V Classic each year and lives out in Phoenix, so I get to see him and others including Clyde Austin who played here at NC State."