Already, it was going to be an arduous week for Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame women's basketball coach at North Carolina State: Blood work for a tumor cell count on Monday. Chemotherapy for Stage 4 breast cancer on Wednesday. An opening-round game in the N.C.A.A. tournament on Sunday.
Then her cellphone rang at 10:40 Monday morning. The North Carolina State fight song played jauntily as the ring tone, but the call had nothing to do with basketball.
Yow put her hand to her mouth and turned to a visitor in her living room.
"My daddy passed away," she said.
After missing two months of this season to fight recurrent cancer, Yow, 65, returned to the bench in late January, becoming only the sixth Division I women's coach to win 700 games. The 18th-ranked Wolfpack (23-9) knocked off North Carolina, then ranked second, and became the lone victor against No. 1 Duke. The dignity and quiet determination of Yow's struggle invigorated her players, convincing them that anything was possible with emotion and skill, even a national championship.