ACC Women: N.C. State concludes emotional season

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 6, 2009

By Aaron Beard
Associated Press
GREENSBORO ó North Carolina State’s emotionally wrenching season had been over only a few seconds when a Wake Forest fan spotted Wolfpack interim coach Stephanie Glance walking off the court.
“Stephanie!” the woman yelled. “Good job.”
Glance smiled and gave a thumbs-up as she headed into the tunnel ó and into an uncertain future.
Its season over and many still coping with still-raw emotions of losing Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow to cancer, N.C. State will focus on the future of a program defined by Yow for the past three decades.
“I think we’ll always be connected and bound by this year and this season in some way,” Glance said after Thursday’s loss to the Demon Deacons in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Yow died Jan. 24, about three weeks after taking leave for the rest of the season to focus on her health as she fought a recurrence of the disease she was first diagnosed with in 1987. The Wolfpack (13-17) lost all six games in January before regrouping to win three in row in February then lost three of four to end the season.
Along the way, the team seemed caught between embracing Yow’s legacy and relying on the game as an escape. There were no shortage of reminders, starting with their decision to wear pink-trimmed jerseys ó the color for breast cancer awareness ó bearing the name “Yow” on the back for the rest of the year. In addition, the team placed an N.C. State jersey on Yow’s empty seat on the Wolfpack bench during games.
There was an additional reminder Thursday: a pink-bordered banner with Yow’s name hanging in the end zone of the Greensboro Coliseum.
“I think under the circumstances, we’ve all done a great job of staying together,” senior Shayla Fields said. “If I had one word to describe my teammates, I would call them warriors because we’ve been through so much. This season has been so emotional and we stuck together just like glue. It showed throughout the whole season.”
Still, it was also clear just how taxing the journey has been. Junior Nikitta Gartrell came to the postgame news conference with eyes still brimming with tears.
A few minutes later, Glance broke down in tears, one of the few times she hadn’t been able to maintain her composure in public.
N.C. State has opened a national coaching search, with athletic director Lee Fowler saying he hopes to have a coach in place by early April. To many, Glance is the logical choice, particularly because Yow had hoped Glance would be named the coach-in-waiting ahead of her retirement.
Glance, an assistant to Yow for 15 years, guided the team each time when Yow stepped away in past seasons to focus on her health. Her work this year drew public support from North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell during the regular season and Wake Forest coach Mike Petersen on Thursday.
“I told her I voted for her for (ACC) coach of the year,” he said. “No one in the country, in my opinion, has done a better job of coaching their team in the most difficult of situations as Stephanie has done.
“That wasn’t for sympathy, ‘Oh, let’s vote for N.C. State because it’s the sportsmanship prize.’ It’s not Miss Congeniality. I voted for her because I believe it.”
Fowler has said he will consider Glance, who said after the news conference that she expects to have a formal interview with him soon. Until then, however, she said she will continue with recruiting because “I feel responsible to do the job that I’m employed to do.” She also knows that she might have to look for a coaching job elsewhere.
That is why the seemingly small message from the Wake Forest fan ó like so many the team has received in the past few weeks ó meant so much.
“I probably couldn’t say enough thank yous to our own fans, to the fans of other universities, inside the ACC and across the country,” Glance said. “It’s been tremendous support and I’m very grateful for that.”