July 13, 2007

For Pack's Yow, award is reminder

ESPY winner recalls Valvano's help

Jim Valvano could always make Kay Yow laugh. An award named for her late friend made Yow smile again on Wednesday at the taping of the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.

Yow, who coached the N.C. State women's basketball team to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 despite a recurrence of breast cancer, won the first Jimmy V ESPY Award for Perseverance.

Yow's speech and memories of her former Wolfpack colleague stood as the emotional highlight of the sports world's version of the Oscars, which will be shown on ESPN at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Yow told a story of how Valvano, whom she worked with for 10 years at N.C. State, cheered her during her first occurrence of breast cancer in 1987.

"He made me laugh the entire afternoon," Yow said during her speech. "I was in a lot of pain. That's when I first learned about no pain, no gain."

Yow missed two months of the 2006-07 season fighting breast cancer and enduring chemotherapy. She returned in January and led the Wolfpack to the ACC Tournament championship game and to the NCAA third round.

This is the first year the ESPYs have included the Jimmy V award, which goes to "those who have succeeded despite obstacles and hardships placed before them."

Valvano won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the first ESPYs ceremony in March 1993, where he delivered his memorable "Don't Give Up" speech. One month later, Valvano died of cancer.

Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt presented the award to Yow.

"The determination which she showed this past season embodied the very spirit of Jimmy V and certainly would have made her former North Carolina State colleague proud," Summitt said.

Predictably, Yow deferred the credit for the award to her coaching staff, who made the trip to Los Angeles, and her players.

"They were incredible," Yow said. "My staff and my team had a mind-set of 'I will,' not 'I'll try.' That was so uplifting to me."

Yow wasn't the only North Carolina connection to the ESPYs. Barton College's men's basketball team was nominated for the Best Finish ESPY for its comeback in the final minute of the NCAA Division II national championship game.

The Bulldogs will have to be happy with just a national title. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the award for their Sept. 18 home-run barrage against the San Diego Padres in which the Dodgers tied the score on four consecutive home runs before Nomar Garciaparra's homer won the game in the 10th inning.

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