COLUMBIA—Missouri women’s basketball coach Cindy Stein was on her way to Mizzou Arena on Saturday morning when she got the news. Legendary North Carolina State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow — someone Stein referred to as a “dear friend” — had succumbed to breast cancer at the age of 66.
Stein said the news shook her. She knew Yow had been very sick but hadn’t grasped just how serious her situation had become. After her team’s loss to Colorado on Saturday, Stein took a few moments to pay homage to someone who she said college basketball will never be able to replace.
“That’s a tremendous loss for women’s basketball,” Stein said. “And I will tell you that’s a tremendous loss for that community. And what people don’t realize is that she teaches all of us as coaches.”
Stein said she was first introduced to Yow by her junior college coach who had coached with Yow on the USA Basketball coaching staff. Over the years Stein has had numerous encounters with Yow on the recruiting trail and at basketball camps and coaching conventions. Those meetings never failed to leave Stein amazed.
“She never met a stranger,” Stein said after practice on Tuesday. “She always took everybody in and always took time for everybody. You just don’t have a lot of head coaches that do that.”
“She is always about the teaching part,” Stein said. “Whether it be teaching kids on how to be more mature or better adults or responsible adults or just the game of basketball. I mean, she’s all about the very well balanced person and teaching future leaders and just taking time with your kids to get to know them.”
Stein’s eyes grew watery as she described what Yow’s loss will mean to college basketball and the players and coaches that played with her and against her. It’s a loss that even coaches and players who never met Yow are feeling.
Missouri senior Alyssa Hollins said she never knew Yow. But that doesn’t mean Yow didn’t make an impression on her.
“Every time I hear about her it’s about her being in the moment and really embracing the moment and just being really positive,” Hollins said. “I think that has an effect on everybody, especially in the game when it gets so intense and things that add up like losses and that kind of stuff.”
Like Hollins, Missouri assistant coach Doshia Woods didn’t have a personal relationship with Yow. But like so many others, Woods was inspired by Yow’s battle with breast cancer that began when she was diagnosed in 1987.
“I heard her say something to the effect of when she was diagnosed she didn’t have a choice to be diagnosed,” Woods said. “But she had a choice of how she responded to being diagnosed and that’s probably something that stuck with me the most was her choice to live each day as if it’s your last.”
Stein said that coaches have to do everything within their power to carry the torch and honor her legacy. She said they can do that by teaching their players the same values that were important to Yow. Values like perseverance, respect and dignity. Missouri associate head coach Lynnette Robinson added that coaches must do their best to continue the fight against breast cancer.
“She unbelievably committed herself to it (the fight against cancer) for 21 years,” Robinson said. “If we can continue that and help in any small way in bringing some kind of cure or even get closer to that through things that we can have a hand in then that would really make her legacy live on and make us all proud…and make her proud.”
Who: Missouri (10-8, 1-4 Big 12) vs. Oklahoma State (12-5, 1-3)
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Mizzou Arena
Radio: KWWC/90.5 FM