BHA Rewind: Kay Yow Postgame Speech

Following San Antonio’s 91-71 victory against Tulsa on Saturday, head coach and general manager Dan Hughes addressed the team in his usual postgame speech. He highlighted the Silver Stars rebounding effort – one of the best of the season with a +18 margin – and concluded with his thoughts on the Breast Health Awareness postgame jersey auction.

“Everyone in this room knows someone that has been touched by cancer,” Hughes said. “This is a great cause that we have the opportunity to be part of tonight. The generosity of our fans out there has been among the best in the league, it is truly something special.”

The WNBA all-time leader in games coached, Hughes has given countless postgame talks throughout his 13 seasons as a head coach, but the one he remember most was delivered by the late Hall of Famer, Kay Yow.

Yow served as head coach of the North Carolina State women’s basketball team from 1975 to 2009. In her 38 years as a collegiate head coach, Yow amassed more than 700 career victories, ranking her among the winningest coaches in Division I history. She led her teams to 20 of 27 NCAA Tournaments, 11 trips to the Sweet 16 and a trip to the Final Four in 1998. She also helped lead the U.S. Women’s National Team to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea and in 2002 became the fifth female coach to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I first got to know Kay Yow because I coached a lot of her players at Charlotte and in Cleveland,” Hughes said. “I remember she and Pat Summit came to a game when I was coaching in Cleveland. Throughout the years I was able to get to know her in several ways – both as a coach and as a person through different situations.”

First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, Yow became an advocate for raising awareness and funds in the fight against the disease. Her cancer returned in November 2004 and in November 2006 she learned that the cancer had progressed to her liver. Following a 16-game leave of absence, Yow returned to guide the Wolfpack to the 2007 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen.  In 2007, Yow established the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Yow was a frequent guest at WNBA Breast Health Awareness week games – including the Silver Stars Breast Health Awareness Night against the Los Angeles Sparks on Sept. 5, 2008.

“She called me up and said she was coming out for our game against LA,” Hughes recalled. “I remember her sitting on the front row across from our bench. It was a TV game, so in the third quarter she went over and her and Marsha Sharp – the former Texas Tech coach who was doing color – just sat and talked on the broadcast. It was amazing TV, some of the best TV I’ve ever seen. Not only did you have two great coaches talking, but they talked Breast Health Awareness and some of Kay’s feeling toward the battle she had fought with cancer and about being a point person for the awareness of it.”

The Silver Stars defeated the Sparks, 76-58, their first in a six-game win streak that would carry them into postseason play.

“We won the game and afterwards I saw Kay and asked her to come in the locker room,” Hughes said. “She walked in and I just felt the urge to say ‘Kay, why don’t you wrap this thing up’. Normally I go in and say a few things, but in this case I just gave it to Kay. She jumped up and started talking about a lot of things. She commented on the game, but then she went in and talked about Breast Health Awareness and the life lessons she had learned through being a coach and fighting the cancer in her body at different points. I can still remember her looking at the team and saying ‘when life kicks you, you let it kick you forward’. It was a powerful moment to have her relate to these players -a great coach, a great competitor, a great person, and a great cause. The life lessons that were going on in that room were just massive. When she stopped there was no encore to that, that was a moment that none of us will ever forget.”

After more than two decades of fighting the disease, Kay Yow passed away on January 24, 2009 at the age of 66 from stage 4 breast cancer. In 2010, the Kay Yow National Coach of the Year award was established, presented annually to the NCAA Division I women’s college basketball head coach who displays great character both on and off the court. Hughes currently serves on the 26-member committee responsible for selecting the award recipient.

“After that speech we immediately went out and got a sign that is now in our locker room of Kay’s words that were delivered there. It will always be my favorite postgame talk. I’ve given every other postgame talk for 13 years that I’ve been a head coach, but that one will always be my favorite.”

Following San Antonio’s 91-71 victory against Tulsa on Saturday, head coach and general manager Dan Hughes addressed the team in his usual postgame speech. He highlighted the Silver Stars rebounding effort – one of the best of the season with a +18 margin – and concluded with his thoughts on the Breast Health Awareness postgame jersey auction.

“Everyone in this room knows someone that has been touched by cancer,” Hughes said. “This is a great cause that we have the opportunity to be part of tonight. The generosity of our fans out there has been among the best in the league, it is truly something special.”

The WNBA all-time leader in games coached, Hughes has given countless postgame talks throughout his 13 seasons as a head coach, but the one he remember most was delivered by the late Hall of Famer, Kay Yow.

Yow served as head coach of the North Carolina State women’s basketball team from 1975 to 2009. In her 38 years as a collegiate head coach, Yow amassed more than 700 career victories, ranking her among the winningest coaches in Division I history. She led her teams to 20 of 27 NCAA Tournaments, 11 trips to the Sweet 16 and a trip to the Final Four in 1998. She also helped lead the U.S. Women’s National Team to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea and in 2002 became the fifth female coach to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I first got to know Kay Yow because I coached a lot of her players at Charlotte and in Cleveland,” Hughes said. “I remember she and Pat Summit came to a game when I was coaching in Cleveland. Throughout the years I was able to get to know her in several ways – both as a coach and as a person through different situations.”

First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, Yow became an advocate for raising awareness and funds in the fight against the disease. Her cancer returned in November 2004 and in November 2006 she learned that the cancer had progressed to her liver. Following a 16-game leave of absence, Yow returned to guide the Wolfpack to the 2007 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen.  In 2007, Yow established the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Yow was a frequent guest at WNBA Breast Health Awareness week games – including the Silver Stars Breast Health Awareness Night against the Los Angeles Sparks on Sept. 5, 2008.

“She called me up and said she was coming out for our game against LA,” Hughes recalled. “I remember her sitting on the front row across from our bench. It was a TV game, so in the third quarter she went over and her and Marsha Sharp – the former Texas Tech coach who was doing color – just sat and talked on the broadcast. It was amazing TV, some of the best TV I’ve ever seen. Not only did you have two great coaches talking, but they talked Breast Health Awareness and some of Kay’s feeling toward the battle she had fought with cancer and about being a point person for the awareness of it.”

The Silver Stars defeated the Sparks, 76-58, their first in a six-game win streak that would carry them into postseason play.

“We won the game and afterwards I saw Kay and asked her to come in the locker room,” Hughes said. “She walked in and I just felt the urge to say ‘Kay, why don’t you wrap this thing up’. Normally I go in and say a few things, but in this case I just gave it to Kay. She jumped up and started talking about a lot of things. She commented on the game, but then she went in and talked about Breast Health Awareness and the life lessons she had learned through being a coach and fighting the cancer in her body at different points. I can still remember her looking at the team and saying ‘when life kicks you, you let it kick you forward’. It was a powerful moment to have her relate to these players -a great coach, a great competitor, a great person, and a great cause. The life lessons that were going on in that room were just massive. When she stopped there was no encore to that, that was a moment that none of us will ever forget.”

After more than two decades of fighting the disease, Kay Yow passed away on January 24, 2009 at the age of 66 from stage 4 breast cancer. In 2010, the Kay Yow National Coach of the Year award was established, presented annually to the NCAA Division I women’s college basketball head coach who displays great character both on and off the court. Hughes currently serves on the 26-member committee responsible for selecting the award recipient.

“After that speech we immediately went out and got a sign that is now in our locker room of Kay’s words that were delivered there. It will always be my favorite postgame talk. I’ve given every other postgame talk for 13 years that I’ve been a head coach, but that one will always be my favorite.”