You might think that Kay Yow’s battle with cancer has resulted in such an outpouring of support and good wishes that it’s truly made her a real-life George Bailey. To paraphrase Clarence the Angel, “Remember, no woman is a failure who has friends.”
Yet it’s important to recognize that Yow has always had many, many friends. She’s always been this revered – long before she first was diagnosed with cancer in 1987. The North Carolina State coaching legend was able to be extremely competitive and still gracious to everyone. Thus, people have responded to her genuine kindness and her inclusiveness.
But the strength and bravery she’s exhibited during the protracted struggle she’s had with cancer _ it recurred in 2004 and 2007 – have made her colleagues all the more appreciative of what she’s brought to their lives and their profession.
Tuesday night, I talked with Virginia’s Debbie Ryan, North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell and Texas’ Gail Goestenkors about their reaction to Yow’s decision to sit out the rest of this season as she tries to deal with the debilitating effects of the disease. All spoke very eloquently for a column I did for ESPN.com.
I also asked UConn media relations coordinator Randy Press for some reaction from Geno Auriemma, who had a game Tuesday night. (A clinic, actually, is what that game was, as the Huskies’ defense absolutely shut down South Florida, 83-37.)
You’ll recall that in 1998, Auriemma’s Huskies fell to Yow in the Elite Eight, and he said later that if he had to lose a chance to go to the Final Four to somebody, he was glad it was Yow.
Here is what Auriemma had to say Tuesday about Yow’s decision to take a break from coaching now:
“When someone is going through something like this, and it became a story around the country that Kay Yow was battling cancer, everyone rallied around the event (the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund) and we tried to make it so that it would generate awareness for it.
“In doing that sometimes, people forget the actual thing that we’re talking about– a person is fighting for their life. Now you get reminded it’s a very difficult fight to win.
‘It’s hard to fight that battle and coach at the same time. I’ve known Kay for 30-something years now, and you hope this is temporary. But you also knew it was probably a matter of time before this happened. Maybe not having that stress level and that responsibility will give her more energy and more opportunity to take care of herself.”