My Kay Yow experience
I’ve had many wonderful memories of my friend, my coach, my mentor, Kay Yow. I wanted to share one during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The night the court was dedicated in her name will always be special and a proud moment for me because of my role in the court bearing her name. Beating undefeated and # 1 Duke in the ACC Tournament emotional since she could not stand on the bench without help. Both of these moments were from the 2007 season, a season that will always be special for me as a broadcaster in those emotional, heart-stretching moments.
I want to share a memory from 1998, the year Coach Yow added to her resume with her first and only trip to the Final Four. The day following a heartbreaking defeat by La Tech in the national semifinals, I attended the Senior All Star game that was played between the semis and the finals of the NCAA Tournament. I selected a seat on press row and visited with a friend in the stands. When I returned to my seat, Coach Yow was sitting next to me.
In July of 1997, my middle son, Frankie was born. Frank and I didn’t know until an hour after his birth that Frankie was born with Down Syndrome. It was news without warning or preparation. I was struggling during this time. I had not seen Coach Yow very often that season and didn’t have time to have meaningful conversation but she knew I was struggling with managing the plans and choices for our future as a family. I wasn’t planning to talk about Frankie and my challenges at that moment with Coach Yow. She had just lost a devastating game and a dream season had come to an end.
As the jump ball was tossed and we chatted about the events of the previous night, she began to dig into my opportunities as a parent of a special needs child. She related my struggles to finding out I would have a different path than the one we had planned for our family, just like finding out the news that she had cancer. So as only Coach Yow can do, she started to tell a story. It was a story of faith and determination and how God had given us something that we could handle: her cancer and my challenges to raise Frankie.
She started like this. When faced with adversity, we nurse the hurt. We want people to feel sorry for us. The second step is we curse the hurt. We are mad this adversity happened to me. We ask why and don’t understand. Then we rehearse the hurt. We look for empathy and want people to feel sorry for us and coddle us instead of encouraging us to move forward. The final step is we reverse the hurt. At some point we decide to make a choice about the way we are going to handle adversity. We decide to make a positive change in our attitude and our outlook. When we do this, we are on our way to making a difference in our lives and in the lives that we touch.
I was nine months from giving birth to Frankie. It was shortly after that conversation that I decided she was right. It was time for me to make the right choices with my responsibilities as a mother for my family. My struggle thru all four stages was true. She put it into context that I could understand. I am the strongest advocate for my son Frankie who is smart, handsome, athletic, funny and very social. Frankie is all of those things and just happens to have Down Syndrome. It doesn’t define who he is; it is a part of him.
I’ve had many wonderful memories with Coach Yow in my 30 year relationship with her as a camper, player and professional. The time she spent with me at that game during that time in my life, will be forever remembered. I am so thankful that Coach Yow continued to mentor me years after I had graduated proving once again that she cared about us as people first, before she cared about us as players.
Top ten at the Big Ten Media Day in Chicago, October 2011
1. Northwestern players know a thing about marketing at Media Day. Kendall Hackney and Allison Mocchi selected a few recipes from a Wildcat Cookbook and made the best Oreo Balls I’ve ever tasted. Everyone visited their round table. Coach Joe McKeown’s daughter Megan was the only guard in the Big Ten with 0 turnovers last year!
2. A Freshman Point Guard can make the difference according to Minnesota Head Coach Pam Borton. Minnesota lost 5 games by 5 points or less in conference play last year and Coach Borton is relying on the playmaking skills of Rachel Banham to be the difference in late game.
3. Former Michigan State alum Lauren Aitch creates custom made business suits. Coach Suzy Merchant is a regular customer. Aitch held a fund raiser and raised $15,000 for Pediatric Cancer and Coach Merchant walked the runway as a model to support.
4. Illinois returns everyone including Big Ten preseason first teamer Karisma Penn. That should tell you expectations are high for Coach Jolette Law’s team.
5. Penn State is picked to win the Big Ten by media and coaches. Coach Coquese Washington’s point guard Alex Bentley is the pick to be player of the year. Backcourt mate Maggie Lucas made 100,000 shots this summer to avoid the 1-11 performance in the NCAA Tournament last season. I predict Maggie won’t repeat that kind of shooting night since she made 112 3 pointers last season, Big Ten and Penn State single season records.
6. Nebraska’s Head Coach Connie Yori missed her first Big Ten Media day. Good news on her health after complications from knee surgery! She is down to one crutch. The bad news is the other crutch is used to measure a level for her team to defensive slide under! Not really but I bet she has thought of it! Watch out for Connie on that little red scooter on campus! She doesn’t have a horn!
7. The Ohio State University has won the last 7 consecutive Players of the Year in the Big Ten. Their style of play has been to the post, not thru the post. Expect a different team this year. According to Coach Foster, a more “European” style of play featuring Sam Prahalis and Tayler Hill. They did win 11 of last 12 games last season. All is not lost at Ohio State!
8. The Big Ten has a media vote and a coach’s vote for the top 3 spots only. That’s the way they have done it for years. Both polls have Penn State at one and Purdue at two. Media has Michigan State as 3 and coaches have Iowa at 3.
9. Purdue welcomes back a strong nucleus with 6 seniors. KK Houser is back from injury and ready to share point guard responsibilities with Courtney Moses. There are only 4 coaches in the history of the game that have taken them alma mater to the Final Four. Will Coach Versyp have enough to get there? They play the toughest three-game swing in college basketball. At duke, at Texas A&M, Notre Dame. All three will be in the top ten. No one lines up that schedule back to back to back unless you believe that this might be the year. Now must pull together with the Drew Mingo injury. How much more can that kid take? Enough is enough.
Iowa is healthy! This better not be the jinx or Head Coach Lisa Bluder will take me off her Christmas Card list. Wahlin, Printy and Johnson are veterans who allow Iowa to contend in the Big Ten race.
What did I learned at Big 12 media day? Read on!
1. Quote of all quotes! The highlight of the 2011 Big 12 Media day belongs to Coach Kim Mulkey. Coach Mulkey on not playing Texas A&M after playing them every year since 1974 and playing off the comments of Texas A&M president: “If a man wants to divorce me and says our relationship has no value to him, and then he asks if he can sleep with me, the answer is: NO!
2. Trace Atkins, the country music singer, had a secret crush on Kim Mulkey till now. He remade a Lou Rawls love song and dedicated it to this “little girl” from La Tech on his new CD. Track #13. Check it out! Trace was a walk-on football player at La Tech but Kim didn’t give him the time of day! Now he’s reconnecting and might show up at Baylor to sing the national anthem!
3. Hallie Christopherson, Iowa State sophomore is a graphic designer with forward thinking creativity. No surprise Coach Bill Fennelly is creative in his game planning. He recruits left brain and right brain players. Get well Coach Fennelly! You were sincerely missed at media day!
4. Kansas did some interesting off season conditioning involving boxing. I asked Monica Engelman if she knew what a squat thrust was? Nope! Kids got too many funky training techniques. Bring back the old-school squat thrusts!
5. Brittany Griner has always been a self-proclaimed “motor head”. She likes to tinker with cars and motorized things. She once tweaked the governor on her go-cart for speed. She gets around campus on her longboard, her second since arriving at Waco. She lost the first one under a campus bus. Ok? If Coach Mulkey is ok with it, me too. Griner’s working on a hook shot. Oh boy! Could be unstoppable! Swin Cash was a big help with the national team experience in Italy and she really enjoyed Coach Auriemma.
6. K State’s Brittany Chambers was a first team All Big 12 performer last year. She has added to her game and added 10 pounds to her frame. She’s shooting the floater and getting her shot off quicker. She also spent some time conditioning with a fork lift. K State lined up a couple of forklifts and did some pull ups as only K State can do. You had to jump up and to grab the bar set over 9 feet. Coach Deb Patterson is literally setting the bar!
7. OSU Sophomore Point Guard Tiffany Bias is going to be a fashion designer. Short of calling herself a fashion diva, she’s “ok” with Coach Budke and the orange jacket that he pulls out for the big games! Loves orange! Expect them to be the surprise team from Big 12 on the national scene, not in the Big 12. The coaches already know!And, Toni Young has the red light when it comes to dunking. She is under the “no-dunking” rule at OSU.
8. Tyra White, Texas A&M’s returning leading scorer is trying to put the NCAA Title game on the shelf but have become celebrities on their own campus. Tyra watched the title game 4 times alone and hundreds of times she has seen “the shot” she made late. Her new focus is the free throw line. Her routine is 3 dribbles, 1 spin, 1 dribble then swish. Will her ft% climb this year?
9. Texas’ Ashley Gayle is set to become the best shot blocker in Texas history. That means a high risk-high reward defense will be more dangerous. A veteran backcourt with a high defensive basketball IQ will transfer to more offense. Expect this to be the highest scoring team Coach G has put on the floor in her time at Texas. By the way, did I mention 6’5 Cokie Reed is back! Good things for Texas this season.
10. Texas Tech has 12 players returning and will finish higher than their pre season 6th place prediction. Don’t sleep on Mallard, Morris and Smalls. This is a team that beat Baylor and OU late last season. This team appears to be a hungry, hard working group!
11. The only Big 12 Wade Trophy Winner in the history of the league is back on the sidelines at Texas. Edwina Brown is an assistant coach and according to the Texas backcourt, she’s already had an impact teaching a few old school tricks.
12. The Big 12’s survival creates a renewed energy for the season for all Big 12 Coaches. The major change in scheduling, playing each team twice, will be a challenge for many but will allow the Big 12 to have a true champion. I’ve been an advocate for in conference RPI with unbalanced schedules. The Big 12 has been the most consistent completive regular season race with the best conference RPI the past 4 years. Will the round robin help or hurt NCAA at large opportunities?
13. OU will be without 4 year starting point guard Danielle Robinson yet still have firepower at the guard positions with Whitney Hand and Aaryn Ellenberg to play with pace. No one sliced up the court in transition and answered the 3 W’s of a good point guard like DRob. Who to get it to, when to deliver and where are the 3 W’s. One of my all time favorite features from the Big 12 was with DRob at center court in the Lloyd Noble Center “breaking it down”.
Plus one! 12 consecutive years the Big 12 has led the nation in attendance. The home court is fantastic in this league. It’s one of the many reasons I enjoy working in the Big 12 the past ten years. They love hoops and its fun for the fans and the TV crews.
My Mighty Macs experience:
Friday, October 21, 2011, Frankie and I get to the Citadel Mall IMAX theatre early to secure the back row and a giant, butter-filled, extra-large bucket of popcorn. Anticipation is high to see a movie on the big screen for the sport I love! Not only was the movie experience going to be exciting, but enhanced with a special treat. We attended with the family of one of the actresses in the movie and her teachers from Ashley Hall High School. The family had not seen the finished product! Margaret Anne Florence is #23, Rosemary Keenan in the movie. Her parents, Terry and Hope are friends.
Terry is battling lung cancer and had a heart attack the week before the premiere. Terry is a former member of the PGA and is our Director of Golf at Bulls Bay. As the movie started, Terry and Hope were all smiles! As the movie progressed and the anticipation of seeing #23 grew, Terry and Hope couldn’t stop smiling as the tears trickled down their faces! The theatre erupted in cheers when Margaret Anne appeared in her first scene. The scene was about the girls meeting Coach Rush for the first time for tryouts. It was a thrill to see anyone fulfill dream. Terry and Hope were as proud as any parent could be. It was inspiring watching their dream for their daughter play out on the big screen. It will be a moment that I will remember for a lifetime.
The movie’s theme is about teamwork, trust, togetherness and toughness. The struggles by those before us in the game were met with the same conviction and sturdy backbone that we see in today’s hard working players. Women’s basketball will always be under the label of “movement”. As we gain an additional slice of the American sports scene, we always should feel compelled to let the fans and the stakeholders in the game know much we appreciate them taking a stand and fighting for their movement.
Commitment, participating in a cause greater than yourself and trusting your teammates are still the cornerstones of successful, winning programs in women’s college basketball. The story of Immaculata’s basketball run in 1972, 73, 74 is inspiring and motivating. Coach Cathy Rush talks about believing and hoping and staying committed with her words and her actions in the movie. These are values I hear in today’s classrooms, churches and basketball courts. These are not new lessons yet it’s not old school either. Fundamentals and having a foundation and inner drive are how our game was built and how our game is played today. Go out and support the Mighty Macs movie! You and your team at home or your team in the workplace will be grateful for what our game is today!
Top Ten things I learned at ACC media day, October 2011
The ACC will be branded as fast and furious this season. The theme is offense and scoring. The irony of the speed factor is that usually it’s about the guards. Not in the ACC this year! Check out the big girls!! The ACC is dominated by veteran post play. And, just about each skilled post player has transformed their bodies to play at a pace coaches and the athleticism in the league dictates. In other words, big girls better run or they may never touch the ball because the guards are pushing in transition. Here a few things I learned at ACC media day in Greensboro, NC on October 18, 2011
1. Miami is the team to beat. The best perimeter tandem in the ACC, potentially in the history of the league, needs no intro. All American Shenice Johnson, reigning ACC player of the year (Moe Moe) along with reigning ACC scoring champ Riquana Williams (Bay Bay) will receive the attention but you better not sleep on Morgan Strohman, Stephanie Yderstrom or newcomer Pepper Wilson inside. 6’6 Wilson dropped 30 in her transfer year and could drop a double double each night to compliment the defending ACC champs chance to repeat. This is a team that will be defined by how the pieces fit around Moe Moe and Bay Bay!
2. Duke has same ole attention to a defense that dictates, determines and denys a team their offensive rhythm. The tempo will be deceptively offensive though with the balance of a post presence after graduating 3 wnba picks. The posts will be young. Back2back #1 recruiting classes give new author, Coach McCallie something to write about!
3. Maryland has a question mark about them I just can’t figure out what it is? Experience, big game exposure, talent, coaching, Lynetta Kizer are all winning traits. It might be one of those things we can’t see . . . like toughness, togetherness, trust? Those are words I use in describing UCONN’s consistent success. Does Maryland bring “it” every night? Gonna have to with that schedule!
4. FSU will have the deepest front line. Cierra Bravard is skilled and anchors a toughness inside the lane with a trimmer body and tighter focus. Frontcourt includes Natasha Howard, Chelsea Davis and Chastity Clayton . . . all three can carry interior scoring . . . but it’s their added versatility that will be tough to match up with this year. Who will get them the ball? 4-yr starter at point Courtney Ward graduated. Pay attention because these big girls will need an “offense-starter” as much as they will need a point guard.
5. Georgia Tech is prepared for 6th consecutive 20 win season and NCAA tournament appearance. Last year 24 wins was most in school history but top rebounder and scorer, Alex Montgomery is off to wnba. Sasha Goodlet is retooled and reconditioned to repost. Back2Back seasons as a member of the “All Screen Team” is campaigning to be the captain this year! New home court while renovations taking place at the “Thrillerdome”.
6. UNC will have an 80 lbs swing inside. Waltia Rolle will need to drop about 50 after pregnancy and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt has already shed 30 since last season. Not sure when and if these two players will be available this season to assist Senior Center Shay Shegog. Til then, UNC will play small in a year where playing big might be necessary. There’s one thing you can count on, “there’s fast, then there’s North Carolina fast”. Didn’t get to say it much last season, but will say it a lot this year for them to be competitive.
7. With the theme of the ACC being about post play and speed, NC State will be different in the lane because of their size and versatility. Strong sense of “Kellie Harper” mental toughness integrated into every game and practice situation. Their frontline versatility with Bonae Holston and Kody Burke will make them smaller. My former boss at Ohio State, Archie Griffin used to say to me all the time, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. I think of Archie when I think of this year’s NC State team.
8. UVA’s new boss is former Duke player and assistant coach Joanne Boyle. Virginia is implementing a motion offense which requires a read-and- react offensive mind set. According to Chelsea Shine, Senior post player, setting good screens will be a defining detail of their new offense.
9. BC is the only school who doesn’t have a returning post presence after 4 years of Swords and Murphy. BC will be more athletic with an open lane for cutting and diving.
10. 3 of the last 5 years have been the best years at Wake Forest yet this program hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 21 years. Mike Peterson has built Wake piece by piece. Don’t sleep on the athleticism or the defense. Sandra Garcia, in the middle, is capable of carrying this team. They are athletic on the wings and hungry for respect. Former NY Knicks strength coach has helped build mental toughness.