Saturday, January 24, 2009

Geyer remembers Kay Yow

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- Jacksonville State women’s basketball coach Becky Geyer, like women’s coaches and players all across the country, was saddened by the news of the passing of North Carolina State coach Kay Yow.

Geyer didn’t have much interaction with Yow, who lost her battle with breast cancer Saturday, but she recalled fondly the time at last year’s Women’s Final Four when she approached the legendary coach with an autograph request for a friend.

“I thought we were best friends,” Geyer recalled of their interaction. “She’s one of those people who are really engaging and whoever comes up to her, she’s a good person and she’s going to be very engaging, and you think you’re friends. She’s just that type person, so, yeah, I was really sad to hear that news today.”

But the JSU women’s program has a little more connection to Yow than just Geyer’s encounter. The Gamecocks played at N.C. State on Dec. 29, losing 76-38.

It was a game Yow hoped to be able to coach after missing the Wolfpack’s previous game in New York, but missed because of her illness. Geyer got the sense then, talking with N.C. State associate head coach Stephanie Glance, Yow’s battle was getting tougher. On Jan. 6 the 66-year-old coach announced she would not return to the team this season, a decision she described as one of the hardest she has ever had to make.

“You know how when you talk to people you can just tell by looking in their eyes,” Geyer said. “She had just said, ‘Becky, she’s not doing well,’ and I knew that (when) she said that it was more than just not feeling well. You got that sense of urgency that she really wasn’t doing well right now. As I continued to follow the news and her continuing not to be at games, I knew it probably had to be pretty bad.”

Yow entered her 34th season as the Wolfpack’s coach this year. She is one of only three women’s coaches in Division I to coach 1,000 games at one institution and with an overall record of 737-344 is one of only six coaches to compile 700 victories. She guided her teams to 20 NCAA Tournaments, 11 trips to the Sweet 16 and one trip to the Final Four. She had 21 20-win seasons and 29 winning seasons.

Geyer reminded her players of Yow’s legacy on the trip to Raleigh, and broke the news of Yow’s passing to them hours before they played at Austin Peay.

“When we first got to North Carolina before we knew she wasn’t coming to the game, I said, ladies this is a legend in women’s basketball, not only for what she’s done for cancer research but what she’s done just to promote women’s basketball,” Geyer said. “There’s not anything you ever hear that people just don’t praise her for what she’s done on and off the court.

“We’re definitely all sad. I told the girls today on the bus and they were just really bummed. A lot of them had really hoped to get a chance to meet her when we had played there.”

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