February 21, 2007

Mills, Laila Ali to test dancing skills

NEW YORK - Here's a bet there won't be any Beatles songs on the next "Dancing With the Stars." ABC announced Wednesday that Paul McCartney's estranged wife, Heather Mills, will be among the competitors.

Mills will be the first contestant with an artificial limb to compete on the series, which returns for its fourth season March 19. She lost the leg in a motorcycle accident in 1993.

Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno, boxer Laila Ali, former basketball star Clyde Drexler and actor Vincent Pastore, who played gangster Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero on "The Sopranos," are also in the cast.

Jerry Springer, one of last season's competitors, teased ABC's "Good Morning America" audience before tossing out Mills' name.

"She may be a sentimental favorite," said Springer, even though Mills has Yoko Ono-like favorability ratings among many Beatles fans. Her selection delivers a message that whatever challenges people face in life, they can dance, he said.

Mills is an activist for animal rights and elimination of the use of land mines.

"Dancing With the Stars" has proved to be a substantial hit for ABC, although this is the first time it will air when a season of Fox's "American Idol" is under way. ABC will air its dancing competition on Monday and Tuesday nights to avoid going head-to-head with "American Idol."

Actor and former country star Billy Ray Cyrus, former 'N Sync member Joey Fatone, Miss USA 2004 Shandi Finnessey, former "Entertainment Tonight" host Leeza Gibbons, model Paulina Porizkova and former "Beverly Hills, 90210" star Ian Ziering round out the cast.

February 18, 2007

N.C. State coach a 'shining light'

Yow's cancer battle hasn't dimmed her faith, or players' love

Turn your lamp down low, Hear the four winds blow, Bow your head and pray, It ain't what you planned, You've got one last stand, Let the music play.

From a song by Robert Earl Keen

Kay Yow has cancer.

The worst kind. Stage 4. Metastasized. The kind that doesn't go away.

But Wednesday when Yow -- in her 32nd season as N.C. State's women's basketball coach -- walked into her office, she made it seem like any other day.

She admired the three vases of fresh flowers decorating the reception area, chit-chatted with members of her staff, then went back to her office, the swishing of her nylon warm-up pants rubbing, escorting her down the hall.

Yow, 64, hadn't come from home but from another round of chemotherapy, a weekly ritual that can't cure the cancer but can, perhaps, prolong her life.

An afternoon practice session approached as Yow sat in a black leather chair in her office, holding a tissue to wipe her runny nose.

"I want to live," Yow said, pausing. "There are things I want to do."

Yow knows from bitter experience that cancer's only promises are dark ones. She might have months or years left. Her doctors are encouraged by her progress and have encouraged her to live her life the way she chooses.

Don't let the disease rob you.

"It's the struggle of life being handled in the most gracious way," said Nora Lynn Finch, senior associate athletics director at N.C. State and one of Yow's close friends.

Valvano a dear friend

Twenty years ago -- a year before she coached the U.S. women's basketball team to the gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea -- Yow was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy.In those 20 years, though, cancer has taken Yow's mother, Lib, and her dear friend Jim Valvano, just days apart in 1993. Now it has her body, but to borrow Valvano's words, not her mind, her heart nor her soul.

Yow loved Valvano like a brother. Days after her 1987 mastectomy, she was at home when the phone rang. It was Valvano calling to say he and his N.C. State men's basketball staff were bringing lunch to Yow.

For Yow, it still hurt to breathe, to walk, to laugh. She wanted to say no thank you, but it was impossible to tell Valvano no.

He stopped by Amedeo's, an Italian landmark on the edge of campus, and ordered most of the menu. Lasagna, shells with marinara sauce, eggplant.

The coach spread the food across a dining room table, found a stack of paper plates, and for two hours, sat with Yow, making her laugh with his stories. It hurt so bad to laugh that Yow wanted to cry.

"But it was good medicine," she said.

One of the guys

Yow and Valvano could hardly have come from more different places. He came from Queens, N.Y., full of flash and dazzle, blessed with the gift of finding humor in everyday life and the greater gift of sharing it with the world.

She was born in Gibsonville, just east of Greensboro, one of three sisters, as naturally introverted as Valvano was extroverted.

But they shared interests and passions. Both were English majors and talked for hours about books and literature. Poetry, the classics, bestsellers, the Bible.

And basketball. Valvano won the 1983 national championship. Yow won the 1988 Olympic gold medal and pioneered the emerging women's game.

Some days Valvano would walk into Yow's office at Case Athletic Center and start talking. Other days Yow would find the couch in Valvano's office. One day the subject would be motivation. Other days it would be game tactics or discipline or what happened at home the night before.

The best days were often when Yow could hear the laughter spilling out of Valvano's office and she would invite herself in among the boys. Baseball coach Sam Esposito would be there, so would wrestling coach Bob Guzzo and soccer coach George Tarantini.

The room would be clouded with cigar smoke, loud talking and men. Yow loved it.

"I'd be the only woman among these Italian men," Yow said. "Those were great life lessons for me."

Court bears her name

Yow's life has been a lesson in quiet virtues. She has won 702 games and on Friday the court at Reynolds Coliseum was named in her honor before the Wolfpack upset second-ranked North Carolina.Her name is on the floor of the building where Yow works, but she still introduces herself to strangers in the hallways .

Yow's gift as a coach has been her ability to push her players without pounding them. She can be demanding, but there's more honey than hammer in her style. A player's greatest fear is of disappointing Yow.

Now the sweetness has come back in her direction. More than 100 former players returned to Raleigh recently to honor Yow. Cards and e-mail wishes arrive daily from as far away as Thailand.

After taking a leave of absence in November to deal with her sickness, Yow returned to the bench in late January. She attends practices daily, but it's a chore. She talks to her team but often conveys her message through long-time assistant Stephanie Glance.

"Coach Yow is like a light, our shining light," senior center Gillian Goring said.

`Kay's Kids'

Yow is responding well to treatments, but taking her various medications requires time and energy. Some days she feels good. Other days are bad.

Some days when she was away from the game, she missed the squeak of shoes on the wooden floor and the surge of emotion she feels when a game tips off. Other days, Yow said, she felt so bad she didn't think of basketball . She thought only of surviving another day.

"Because she's back the perception is she's doing better," said Glance, who attended Yow's basketball camps as a teenager. "It's still Stage 4 cancer," the most life-threatening stage.

On a table in Yow's office is a red photo album with "Kay's Kids" stamped on the front. It's a collection of pictures of her former players' children. She keeps a disposable camera in the office in case anyone drops in with their kids.

"Basketball was the common ground that brought us together, but once in her family she's the mother away from home, the teacher. You take a part of her wherever you go," former player Connie Rogers Newsome said.

Simple pleasures

Yow moves slowly now and her soft drawl is more noticeable. She is an iconic figure in the sport and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but she is also a woman who likes grilled cheese sandwiches and watching "Deal or No Deal" between basketball games on TV.She never intended for her private battle to become public, but it has and Yow has found some comfort in that.

In chemotherapy earlier in the day, a woman Yow didn't know thanked the coach for inspiring her, their lives tied together by disease and hope.

"It's wonderful something good can come from something this bad. I praise the Lord for that," Yow said, using the tissue to wipe her eyes.

Yow's faith has sustained her. She quotes Philippians 4:13 -- "I can do all things through Him that strengthens me" -- her favorite Bible verse. She asks people to pray not for her but for her doctors that they find the proper treatments for her and others.

The beauty of Yow's life isn't in the games she's won but in how she's lived.

"People will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel," Newsome said. "She made me feel loved and accepted and like a child of God."

Keeping the faith

Shortly before Valvano died 14 years ago, Yow attended a Wednesday mass with him. Afterward, they went to a breakfast place Valvano liked. They talked about faith and life and death.

Yow's mother fought cancer for nearly six years and did not respond well to treatments. Almost every Sunday afternoon of her adult life, Yow would drive to Gibsonville and eat dinner with her family. Her mother's illness changed that.

Lib Yow, Kay's mother, and Valvano ended up one floor apart at a Raleigh hospital in their dying days. At night, Kay would sit by her mother's bed. When her mother went to sleep, Yow would go upstairs and sit with Valvano's family outside his room. Valvano died a few months before Yow's mother.

"There's no secret answer to this," Yow said. "Just let Him be in control. I'd like to be in control, but He's in control. If His final say is that I don't make it, as long as I know it's His say, then I know it's right."

Near the end of his life, Valvano gave the world his message of hope, explaining that cancer could take his body but not his mind, his heart and his soul.

Yow has a copy of that speech and has seen it several times -- but not recently.

Her favorite part, she said, is when a stage manager tries to hurry Valvano off the stage. He responds, saying: "That screen is flashing up there 30 seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going 30 seconds, huh?"

Yow laughed softly at the memory, the tissue at her eyes again.

"I know how he felt ," she said.

Kay Yow

AGE: 64

BORN: Gibsonville

COLLEGE: East Carolina (1964)

CAREER COACHING RECORD: 702-322 (overall); 645-303 (32 seasons at N.C. State)

HIGHLIGHTS: Fifth-winningest women's basketball coach in Division I history...Coach of 1988 Olympic gold-medal women's team.

February 08, 2007

(1) Duke 64, (2) North Carolina 53

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Duke was here before, carrying the No. 1 ranking onto its biggest rival's home court -- only to have North Carolina snatch it away.

Not this time. By twice turning back the Tar Heels' late comeback attempts, these determined Blue Devils wouldn't let it happen again.

Abby Waner scored six of her 16 points during the decisive second-half spurt, and top-ranked Duke held off No. 2 North Carolina 64-53 on Thursday night.

"It's a new year. It's a whole new team," Waner said. "I didn't enjoy last year's game here so much. Obviously, you think about what they brought last year, and what you'd change, but it was a whole new year."

Wanisha Smith had all 17 of her points in the first half, Lindsey Harding added 16 points and Alison Bales had 14 rebounds for the Blue Devils (25-0, 10-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Duke overcame second-half foul trouble and held off the Tar Heels at every critical juncture, improving to 8-0 against ranked teams and snapping a five-game losing streak to North Carolina -- including a surprisingly lopsided loss here last year in the first 1-2 matchup in the history of the rivalry.

"It makes us feel a little bit better about the losses we had in the past, but not much," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said.

Camille Little scored a season-high 21 points and Erlana Larkins had 14 rebounds for the Tar Heels (24-1, 8-1), but star point guard Ivory Latta finished with just nine points on 3-of-20 shooting and missed all 11 of her 3-point attempts.

"It's pretty simple -- we've just got to shoot the ball better," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I don't know we've ever had a game ... where the rest of the team shot as poorly as we did."

North Carolina twice rallied to tie in the second half, the last coming when Alex Miller's jumper with 7:50 left made it 47-47.

Duke countered with a clinching 14-3 spurt led by Waner and Bales. Bales started the run with a wide-open layup and later added an 18-footer, and Waner then scored three straight baskets.

Her last field goal deflated the sellout crowd at Carmichael Auditorium. Waner drove toward the corner, then pulled up and knocked down a jumper, making it 57-50 with 2:40 to play.

"I thought that was the dagger," Goestenkors said.

Duke's lead grew to 61-50 on a late free throw by Bales, who overcame a rough offensive game -- finishing with just seven points -- by blocking seven shots and affecting several others.

"Offensively, she didn't score much, but defensively, she was a monster," Goestenkors said. "She changed so many shots."

Duke avenged its previous visit to Chapel Hill -- a 77-65 loss to the Tar Heels -- and earned its first victory against North Carolina in the post-Alana Beard era. The Blue Devils had won 12 straight in the series before their five-game slide.

"Everybody kept talking about 1 vs. 2," Harding said. "I kept thinking, 'We've got to get Carolina."'

It was the latest into a regular season that two unbeatens met in a 1-2 matchup, and the first time it matched teams with perfect records from the same conference.

"Twenty-one years (of coaching at North Carolina) and this is what we dreamed of," Hatchell said. "I'm sorry that we didn't protect our home court."

The Blue Devils led for much of the first half, taking the lead on Harding's jumper in the lane midway through the half, which started a 10-2 spurt. Duke's lead grew to 10 in the half on Gay's jumper from the elbow that made it 29-19.

North Carolina used strong free-throw shooting to keep it close in the opening 20 minutes. The Tar Heels made up for a stretch in which they had one field goal in 9 1/2 minutes by making 11 of 15 foul shots in the half.

The Tar Heels' shooting woes continued in the second half, and they finished 2-of-19 from 3-point range.

February 04, 2007

Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17

MIAMI -- A wet and wild Super Bowl, the winning conditions for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

A team built for indoors found its footing on a rain-soaked track and outplayed the Chicago Bears to win the NFL title 29-17 Sunday night. The Colts were far less sloppy, particularly their star quarterback, who proved he can indeed win the big game -- the biggest game.

That's what it was for Tony Dungy, too. He became the first black coach to win the championship, beating good friend and protege Lovie Smith in a game that featured two black coaches for the first time in Super Bowl history.

It was a game of firsts: the first rainy Super Bowl and the first time an opening kickoff was run back for a touchdown when sensational Bears rookie Devin Hester sped downfield for 92 yards.

And not since the Buffalo Bills self-destructed with nine turnovers in losing to Dallas 14 years ago had there been so much messiness. The first half was marred by six turnovers, three for each team. Even football's most clutch kicker, Adam Vinatieri, missed a chip-shot field goal, and an extra point attempt was botched, too.

The second half wasn't quite so ugly, but when much-maligned Bears quarterback Rex Grossman's wobbler was picked off and returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Kelvin Hayden with 11:44 remaining, it was over.

Chicago (15-4), which led the league in takeaways this season, finished with five turnovers, including two interceptions by Grossman.

The Colts (16-4) will take it. It's their first title since the 1970 season, when they played in Baltimore.

Manning ended up 25-for-38 for 247 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, and was the game's most valuable player.

It was confirmation of his brilliance, even if he didn't need to be dynamic. The son of a quarterback who never got to the playoffs, Manning has been a star throughout his college career at Tennessee and his nine pro seasons with the Colts.

Now he is a champion.

It also was a validation of Dungy's leadership. He helped build Tampa Bay, one of the NFL's worst franchises, into a contender before being fired after the 2001 season. The next year, the Bucs won the Super Bowl under Jon Gruden.

The Colts hoisted their coach on their shoulders and he switched his blue Colts cap for a white one that read "NFL champions." Dungy was carried from the sideline, then was lowered so he could share a long embrace and a handshake with Smith.

Then Dungy waded through the mob to find his quarterback, giving him a big hug.

The Colts reached the pinnacle by winning four postseason games with a defense that made a complete turnaround in the playoffs.

And with a running game that perfectly complemented Manning, thanks to Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, who combined for 190 yards -- 113 on 21 carries by Rhodes and 77 on 10 carries by Addai, who also had 66 yards receiving.

Chicago was denied its first Super Bowl title since the powerhouse 1985 team. These Bears could have used Da Coach, Sweetness and their buddies.

It rained from start to finish; there was even "Purple Rain" during halftime when Prince sang some of his signature songs. And though Vinatieri twice was a victim of the slop, he kicked three field goals.

Hester's spectacular return provided a stunning beginning -- and a severe jolt to the Colts. The local product and only rookie All-Pro this season pumped his arms to excite the crowd before the kickoff, then lifted the fans from their seats with an electrifying run on which he never was touched.

He barely touched the ball again as Indy went to squibbing kickoffs.

Leading 16-14 at halftime, the Colts spent half the third quarter with a march to Vinatieri's 24-yard field goal. Twice on the drive, Manning fell to the ground while throwing. But he completed them.

Grossman had it even worse on Chicago's initial possession of the second half, twice in a row slipping and getting sacked. Maybe he would have done better on icy turf.

Thomas Jones, forced to carry the Bears' entire rushing load when Cedric Benson was hurt in the first half, was Chicago's best player. But with Grossman ineffective, even inept, all the Bears managed in the second half was Robbie Gould's 44-yard field goal late in the third period.

After Hester's opening dagger, Manning tried to force a pass to Marvin Harrison in double coverage and was picked off by Chris Harris to spoil Indy's first possession, but the Colts struck back on their next series, converting three third-downs. The final one was the most important as Manning got everything on a long pass to the uncovered Reggie Wayne even though Tank Johnson had his hands on the quarterback. Wayne trotted into the end zone for a 47-yard score.

Then the rain ruined three straight plays.

Holder Hunter Smith dropped the snap on the extra point and Vinatieri couldn't get off a kick. Then Vinatieri, well aware of who was lurking deep, squibbed the kickoff to tight end Gabe Reid, who fumbled at his 35, with Tyjuan Hagler recovering for the Colts.

But Manning and Addai botched the handoff on the next snap and Chicago's Mark Anderson recovered, the third turnover in the first 8 1/2 minutes.

Couldn't anybody play this game?

Jones certainly could. He used a sharp cutback to break a 52-yard run, the longest of his career, to the Colts' 5, and Grossman found Muhammad in the front of the end zone for a 14-6 lead.

Jones finished with 100 yards rushing.

A fourth giveaway in the opening quarter, by Benson on his first carry before injuring his knee, didn't damage Chicago.

Vinatieri, who made two Super Bowl-winning kicks for New England, nailed a 29-yard field goal early in the second period but was wide left from 32 y ards at the end of the half.

Vinatieri still set a record with 49 postseason points.

Duke retires Redick's No. 4 jersey

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke retired J.J. Redick's No. 4 jersey Sunday, honoring the most prolific scorer in both school and Atlantic Coast Conference history.

The 6-foot-4 guard was honored during halftime of the Blue Devils' 68-67 loss to Florida State. A banner bearing his number was unveiled in the rafters at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"I am just extremely humbled," Redick said. "Every time now that I walk into Cameron, it's going to mean something more. This is something that I crazily dreamed about years ago."

He became the 13th player in school history to have his jersey retired, and second this season. Two-time national defensive player of the year Shelden Williams had his No. 23 retired last week.

Redick averaged 19.9 points during his four seasons (2002-06), finished 16th in NCAA history with a school- and conference-record 2,769 points and set an NCAA record with 457 3-pointers.

Redick's '4' set to rise to rafters

It seems as though jersey retirement ceremonies are becoming a Sunday tradition at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Last week, Shelden Williams looked on as his No. 23 was unveiled in the rafters. Sunday, it will be his classmate J.J. Redick's turn.

Redick, Duke's and the ACC's all-time scoring leader, will become the 13th men's basketball player to have his jersey retired when his No. 4 rises above Coach K Court, joining all-time greats like Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Johnny Dawkins. Before Williams, the last man to have his number retired was Jason Williams in 2003.

The ceremony will take place at halftime of No. 8 Duke's 2 p.m. game Sunday against Florida State.

"For me, it's the most special honor I could receive," Redick said. "Growing up a Duke fan and following the team for so many years, to be one of 13 guys is incredibly humbling?. I feel really blessed."

But Sunday's ceremony is merely a formality. If Redick's jersey was not assured of being retired when he won the Rupp Award as National Player of the Year after his junior season, then a four-game stretch during his senior year in which he broke the Duke scoring record, the ACC scoring mark and the national three-point shooting mark sealed the deal.

Redick finished his career as a two-time ACC and National Player of the Year and the 16th leading scorer in NCAA history. On the court, he was known for his lightening-quick release and deadly accuracy from three-point range.

Over four years, his Blue Devil teams compiled a record of 116-23. After his senior season, he became the first Duke athlete to win the James E. Sullivan Award, given annually to the country's top amateur athlete.

He became a favorite target of opposing fans' venom because of his everyman build, cocky grin and-especially as a freshman and sophomore-on-court antics. Maryland fans chanted "F- you, J.J." late in a Duke win in College Park during Redick's sophomore year. And at a game against Virginia Tech in his senior year, fans held up a sign that read, "Cave Spring Hates J.J."-Cave Spring referring to Redick's high school.

Redick was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 11th pick in last year's NBA Draft.

Hill, now Redick's teammate with the Magic, has been teasing his soon-to-be rafter neighbor about the jersey retirement ceremony.

"Grant Hill is convinced I'm going to cry," said Redick, who has about 30 family members and friends coming to the game from as far away as Texas and Washington. "My goal is not to cry.... I got emotional when I gave my senior speech. I'm hoping I can get through this one because if I cry, everyone on the Magic will laugh at me."

Off the court, Redick was well-known nationally and locally. His video-game-playing friendship with former Gonzaga star Adam Morrison was national news, and fans frequently stopped him while he was grocery shopping to ask for autographs. Redick, a two-time captain, always tried to deflect the attention he received to his teammates-even when it was announced Jan. 11 that his jersey would be retired.

"All of the individual accomplishments I achieved were the result of being on great teams," he said.

Like his classmate and friend Williams, Redick was a good student, graduating on time with a major in history and a minor in cultural anthropology.

Now, Redick's jersey will hang alongside that of his classmate and friend, Williams. Redick watched Williams' jersey retirement ceremony on television, and e-mailed the big man to tell him "how proud I was of him and how deserving he was." And the star guard said having their two jerseys hanging next to each other in Cameron's rafters is a fitting way to commemorate their four years at Duke.

"Shelden was the greatest teammate-unselfish, the consummate winner," said Redick, who added that he still talks to Williams frequently. "It means a lot to me that my jersey is going up next to his."