Fields, Pack welcome Yow back with win
RALEIGH — Kay Yow mostly played it cool in her return to coaching North Carolina State, giving up her longtime habit of pacing the sideline in exchange for a comfortable seat on the bench.
Just having her back was enough to satisfy the Wolfpack.
Two months after leaving her team to fight cancer, the Hall of Fame coach came back to work Thursday night and led her team on a comeback of its own, a 71-60 win over Virginia.
Ashley Key and former Salisbury star Shayla Fields scored 18 points apiece for N.C. State (14-7, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Wolfpack rallied from a five-point halftime deficit, took the lead for good on Gillian Goring’s stickback with about six minutes left and overcame Monica Wright’s 23 points for the Cavaliers (12-8, 2-4).
But the biggest star on this night spent most of the game on the bench.
Yow, the 64-year-old gold medal-winning coach who’s in her 32nd season at N.C. State, improved her career record to 697-321 in 36 seasons.
Yow remained calm while sitting courtside alongside her team, clapping and occasionally standing to summon her players. She did show a flash of her old self just before halftime, when a charging call on Fields brought the coach to her feet, enraged, with palms out in disbelief.
But for the most part, Yow left the pacing and the histrionics to assistant Stephanie Glance, the interim coach during her time away. In the days before her return, Yow said she didn’t want to overwhelm herself by trying to do too much too soon.
First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, Yow took leave Nov. 22 after doctors found the cancer that first recurred two seasons ago was progressing and began treatment with a combination of chemotherapy and newly targeted biologic therapies.
Meanwhile, Glance filled in and went 10-6 with back-to-back losses to No. 1 Duke and No. 2 North Carolina, and Yow kept tabs on her team as part of the therapy. After receiving favorable reports from her doctors, Yow announced her comeback earlier in the week.
There were plenty of reminders that this wasn’t a typical women’s basketball game between two middle-of-the-pack ACC teams.
Fans and coaches wore varying shades of pink to promote breast cancer awareness, in advance of N.C. State’s “Hoops for Hope” game Sunday. Dangling signs carried messages like “Pray 4 Coach Kay.”
Yow entered the Reynolds Coliseum court to a 90-second standing ovation just before tipoff from the roughly 3,000 in attendance. She made her entrance from the end of the arena where banners mark her induction into the Hall of Fame and her 600th career victory.
She waved to the crowd, hugged the director of the pep band, flashed the Wolfpack’s hand gesture (with middle and ring fingers touching the thumb to create a wolf’s head) and then held both hands over her heart — her way of saying thanks.