A crowd of 1,416 rose to its feet in unison before South Florida faced Georgetown on Saturday night. All the while, coaches and players stood in a single-file line, with pink ribbons pinned on their jerseys and sport coats.
There was silence. It was a moment of remembrance for N.C. State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow.
Yow, one of the most influential figures in college basketball history, died Saturday morning at the age of 66 after a 21-year battle with cancer, and Sun Dome attendees paid tribute to her life before Georgetown’s 86-68 victory over USF.
In the crowd was Veronica Laughlin — a former USF women’s basketball assistant coach who played under Yow at N.C. State from 1977-1980. Laughlin, director of
undergraduate programs in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at USF, said she spoke with former teammates Saturday.
Laughlin said Yow died shortly before 7 a.m. with family and friends surrounding her.
“This was a very sad day for the Wolfpack family,” she said. “I found out this morning from one of my former teammates, Trudi Lacey, who coaches at Queens University. She called me (Saturday) morning to let me know.”
Yow, first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, won more than 700 games, coached the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team to a gold medal in 1988 and helped N.C. State win four ACC championships in her 34 years there.
In 1980, Laughlin was the captain of the first ACC championship team.
Yow was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2002 and continually raised awareness and money in the fight for cancer — launching the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in 2007. She coached up until December of this season.
One of the first games Yow missed due to weakness was against Georgetown (13-6, 3-3) on Dec. 31.
Hoyas coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said Yow will be remembered for her love of the game.
“She gave extreme dedication to the sport,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Even when the cancer came she still came back and continued to fight. We hope just as many people
out there have the love for this game that she had.”
USF coach Jose Fernandez said he appreciates what Yow did to publicize women’s basketball. The sport wasn’t recognized until after Title IX was signed into law in 1972.
“I think our marketing and athletic association did a very good job (Saturday) in honoring her,” Fernandez said. “She’s done a lot for this game with her fight with cancer. She will be missed. She’s had a great effect on coaches and players.”
While most fans left the Sun Dome with the disappointment of USF’s fifth loss in six games, Laughlin said she left with the memory of a coach, a friend and a role model.
“It’s good to have a win, and it’s okay to have a loss, but in the whole scheme of things it’s a very small drop in the bucket in your battle for life,” she said. “It really helps to put things into perspective.”