“Kaye for Kay” – What It Means To Me

“Kaye for Kay” – What It Means To Me
Submitted By: Faye Young Miller, North Carolina State University
On January 21, my Ithaca High School (NY) Girls Basketball team held a “Kay Yow Cancer Fund” Night.
One of our parents came up with the idea, knowing that I had played for Coach Yow “back in the day”.
My players were thrilled to don the pink, long-sleeved shooting shirts and the pink laces as they went
about the business of warming up. From the sideline, I forced myself to hold back tears as I thought of
Kay Yow, and from a more emotional place, longed for and missed my twin sister, Kaye Young Cowher.
Kaye and I played for Coach Yow at North Carolina State, graduating in 1978
following a season in which we were ranked #1 in the country pre-season by
Sports Illustrated. Losing a tough game in the Elite Eight, we finished 29-5
overall - still the most wins in a season for the Wolfpack Women. Kaye and I
were co-captains and realized at the time how fortunate we were to play for
Coach Yow. Over 30 years later, I know we were more than fortunate – we
were blessed.
My twin sister, Kaye, passed away on July 23, 2010 from a recurrence of
melanoma. Five months from the time they found that the melanoma had
returned, we lost her. Kaye was a Mom to 3 basketball playing girls who
shared her passion for the game. She coached them – out in the driveway, in
Kaye and Faye during their
numerous gyms and during many AAU tournaments. I tried to coach them
playing days at NC State.
too but distance was an issue- we lived six hours apart. I did have the
opportunity to see them play many times, culminating in 2008 – when I was a volunteer assistant coach
at Cornell and Kaye’s oldest daughter, Meagan, played for Princeton. It was weird to pull for a team
(Cornell – I loved those “Bigs”) and to pull for one opposing player in the same game. We won both
those games, but Meagan had 26 and 12 and played like the All-Ivy player that she was.
After my sister’s death, many of our former teammates – from Peace
College (we played our first two college seasons at Peace under Coach Nora
Lynn Finch), from North Carolina State and from the New York Stars (WBL)
wanted to do something to remember Kaye. We decided a gift to the Kay
Yow Cancer Fund would especially honor Kaye because the relationship
with Coach Yow was such a special one for my sister. Thus, the “Kaye for
Kay” idea became a reality. Kaye and I attended Coach Yow’s funeral
together back in January, 2009. We were both blown away with the videotaped personal message left for all of us from Coach Yow. Even after her
passing, she was still teaching us, still giving us life lessons so that we would
continue to grow.
Faye's sister, Kaye with
Coach Yow.
I strive to pass along those lessons to my players. “Yow-isms” just come to mind when I want to get
points across. These messages of wisdom may actually be more important than the X’s and O’s I try to
share. I know that I have taken these lessons off the basketball court and used them in my life – they
have been valuable to me as a spouse, mom, friend, teacher and coach.
Coach Yow battled her cancer – 3 times – so hard. I had a long lunch with Coach Yow and Pittsburgh
Coach Agnus Berenato (who I assisted at Georgia Tech from 1988-1993) at the Final Four in April 2008.
Coach Yow was so amazing, checking in to see how I was, what my plans were, how my family was. It
was a difficult time for her but as usual, her focus was on others. She told me that I should continue
coaching, because she believed that I was good at it and because she knew I loved it.
My sister Kaye battled too. She was brave and strong. I miss my visits with her. I miss our lengthy
telephone conversations – often 2 or 3 times a day. She was the first person I called after basketball
games – whether I was coaching at Manhattan College, Georgia Tech, Cornell or at my daughter’s AAU
tournament. I valued her feedback and treasured her perspective. She knew me probably better than
anyone else in my life. She was my teammate for 53 years – 54 if you consider that we are identical
My former teammates (once a teammate, ALWAYS a teammate) and my current players have
remembered two people who I have loved and treasured most in my life – Kaye, my twin sister, and Kay,
my beloved coach.
I am grateful, and I still feel blessed.