Thursday, February 29, 2024

Suburban Chicago girls basketball coach back for 18th season while battling brain cancer

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PALATINE, Ill. (CBS) – The hardwood is starting to heat up for area high school basketball teams.

Every team aspires to win a state championship, but one coach in suburban Palatine is battling for more.

Longtime Fremd High School girls basketball coach Dave Yates has led the program to a state championship in 2020.

The Vikings returned another talented group this season with two Division I commits. As CBS 2’s Jori Parys reported, the team is fighting for its coach every game as he’s fighting his own battle.

There aren’t a lot of coaches out there like Yates.

“He’s created a legacy that it’s tough to equal, but he’s raised the bar, and he keeps raising the bar every year,” said Hamid Mehreioskouei, Fremd High School’s athletic director.

This year, the team’s already celebrated a milestone: Yate’s 400th win as coach.

But there have also been some challenges.

“I really went into this year not knowing what to expect,” Yates said. “And I get a little more tired than I used to.”

Last April, Yates learned he had a form of brain cancer. Flu-like symptoms were what led to a visit with a doctor.

“It’s called glioblastoma multiforme, which is the second-leading most aggressive cancer that you can have,” said Yates’ wife Kathy. “He was starting to get delirious and things like that, so we went to the emergency room. They had found a mass. The next morning, he had what’s called a brain seizure and lost all consciousness. They had to rush him into emergency surgery. He ended up having a second follow-up brain surgery. The fact that he is really fully functioning right now is nothing short of a miracle.”

But one thing Yates was always absolutely certain of was returning to coach his 18th season at Fremd High School.

“I honestly was coaching during the summer too,” he said. “That was my goal, was to at least get to the summer and do some camps.”

Now, Yates is not only coaching, but doing so while undergoing chemotherapy. Ask his players, and they say nobody would know.

“See him practice, and he’s up showing us how to move on defense and he’s got a tone of energy,” said junior guard Ella Todd, who has committed to play at Utah in college. “And see how that hasn’t changed at all, even more so this season.”

Senior forward/guard Isabelle Zavilla added, “Another motivating thing about coach Yates is he’s just able to consistently show up for us, and then that [makes] us consistently show up for him.”

The team’s motivated play has already been reflected in their strong start this season.

“We’ve had huddles before talking about how this season should be for him and we just need to win and just play good because he’s put so much time into us,” said senor forward Brynn Eshoo, who is playing her college ball at Portland University.

“This school, this program, these girls mean everything to him,” Kathy Yates said, fighting back tears. “And I didn’t know we would get another day, so to see him coaching and see the community rally around him has meant more than anybody would ever know.”

Yates is a coach who pours everything into what he loves.

“I really enjoy developing a team, seeing how good we become by the end of the year, you know, that togetherness,” Yates said.

Playing together for the team could mean competing for a second state championship under Yates.

While there is no cure to his type of cancer, Yates continues to get treatment.

Fremd is off to a great start. The Vikings have won eight of their first nine games this season.

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