Prohofsky Reflects on Loss of Coaching Legend Kay Yow
Coach Kay Yow, women's basketball pioneer and legendary coach of North Carolina State, passed away Saturday morning after a long battle with cancer. She was 66.
The Minnesota Lynx send their condolences to the Yow family, Coach Yow's numerous friends, the North Carolina State family, and everyone whose lives Coach Yow touched.
Lynx assistant coach and Minnesota State High School coaching legend Ed Prohosky sat down with us to reflect on the passing of two N.C. State coaching icons.
"I never really knew much about the women's game before I got into it, but I certainly heard about Coach Yow because of the great person she was. Obviously she was very successful, but I didn't really get to know her until I became a part of the women's program and eventually heard that she was going through a tough battle with cancer. Though it was clearly dificult for her, she never let it get to her and didn't let her battle with cancer get in the way of her coaching. It was obvious that she was the kind of coach that players really responded to, and that's what coaching is all about."
"Her situation was very similar to that of their men's coach, Jimmy Valvano. He was there in 1987 when Kay was first diagnosed with cancer, and because of that, they got to be really close. The same illness that eventually took Jimmy, unfortunately came back to take Kay as well. With Kay and Jimmy, it was always about helping other people. That's what coaches are for. I've always said it would be really nice for all coaches to start out at the high school level. There, it's not about playing favorites or picking and choosing who you'd like to coach - you're forced to teach everyone. You especially learn when you're a high school coach that your job is to not only help them out on the basketball court, but to teach them to grow up off it as well. I think Coach Yow really took the responsibilities of teaching her kids how to be good people to heart."
"Coach Yow's passing reminds me of Jimmy V. Every time I think about Jimmy V, I get this picture in my mind of him when he won the National Championship in 1983 with NC State. The game was over and he got so excited he ran up and down the court, looking for someone to hug. He couldn't find anyone, but he kept running all over. It was so funny, but at the same time, that's the kind of person he was; so excited and passionate about his kids. When I was trying to learn as much as I could about basketball, I went to numerous clinics, including those done by Jimmy. I never missed the big clinics. Volvano came in to talk several times and even though I never really got a lot of basketball information from him, I always learned so much from him through his personalty and his love for his kids that he coached."
"He reflected a lot of the same things that Coach Yow did. The players were important to them. Coaching is like being a parent. I don't mean that you love them like you love your family, but there is a sense of love that comes from coaching. Those kids are there, expecially those at the high school level, because they want to be there and in turn, you want to be there. The relationships that develop through that is what makes it all worth while. To us coaches, the important thing is that the players come back 10…20…30 years later and say how they're very appreciative of what we've done for them — they'll never know how much more they do for us. It means so much for us to see kids grow and become good citizens and good people while taking care of others. I know it was the same way for Coach Yow and her kids."
"When I was coaching in high school, there were a lot of kids who didn't have very much growing up. My wife was a real nervous person and when we'd go to ball games, she had a real tough time when the score was close. When we were in the State Tournament she would walk the halls. Well one year at Marshall-University High School, we had a real good team — we were going to win most of our ball games that year. Like I said, she'd get real nervous if the scores were close. So she told the kids that if they won by more than 35 points, she'd bring them dinner. We played teams that we could beat very easily, and on occasion if we'd get it over 35, she'd bring in sphagetti, or something like that for the kids. The kids would always appreciate that, but it got to be pretty expensive. In fact, it got to be so expensive for me that I was making sure we were holding it under 35. It was costing me more than my salary. To this day, every time I talk to one of those kids, they always tell me to say hi to my wife for them. Although some of these kids weren't fortunate enough to have a family of their own, in my wife's good deed they saw family. We had a couple kids come in and stay with us; one had to come and live with us because of problems in his family. We had to buy groceries for one kid. That's Kay Yow. That's Jimmy Valvano. That's Bobby Knight. Everyone talks about Bobby Knight being this real tough guy. I remember the year they won the championship. Steve Alford, a kid that Bobby had been hard on throughout the season, was at the far corner and as soon as the buzzer went off he ran right to Bobby Knight and jumped in his arms. Bobby Knight had a player who was injured in a car accident. He brought him back in a wheel chair and took care of that kid. Bobby spent all kinds of money, giving it back to the school. Although those people have had success, the people and kids they worked with will always remain very important people in their lives. You get much more back from the kids than you ever give."
"We coaches have all been blessed… the kids do much more for us than we'll ever do for them, and I know Coach Yow felt the same way. We'll all miss her."