What little I know about women's college basketball comes from spending one year covering perennial power UConn for the Hartford Courant two years ago. It gave me the rare opportunity to see two Hall of Fame coaches oppose each other in the 2007 NCAA Tournament in Fresno, Calif.
To my right was Geno Auriemma, UConn's charismatic coach. On my left was Kay Yow, North Carolina State's cancer-stricken coach. One coach had perfect hair and a colorful personality. The other was wearing a wig and had a greenish hue to her complexion.
There are two images I remember from that game. One was Auriemma, still hot at a referee over a foul call, shoving his longtime assistant Chris Dailey aside as she attempted to restrain him at halftime. I tended to keep a close eye on Auriemma because watching him was usually more entertaining than most of the games, which were usually decided by halftime. He's been known to scream at officials, ream out his players, throw his jacket and kick a table.
But on this particular evening, a tired-looking woman in a red pant suit had grabbed most of my attention. Yow was a picture of courage that night, coaching her players and fighting breast cancer simultaneously. As the game was going on, she would stand as long as she could, then sit, then get back up and sit down again.
As she watched her team nearly pull off the upset, it was apparent that Yow would need a miracle to beat the dreaded disease after it had spread to her bones and liver. She fought cancer for two decades before taking her last breath this morning. She battled to the very end, just like her team did that night against UConn.
RIP, Coach Yow. You will be missed by those who knew you well and others you inspired.