RALEIGH, N.C. - Kaye Cowher, the wife of ex-Steelers coach Bill Cowher and a former basketball player at North Carolina State and in the now-defunct Women's Professional Basketball League, has died of skin cancer. She was 54.
Cowher died Friday in her native North Carolina, where the family relocated at her urging during Cowher's final year as coach in 2006, one season after the Steelers won the Super Bowl. The family had lived since in Raleigh. "Kaye was such a loving and compassionate person and she was the foundation of our family," Bill Cowher, now an NFL analyst with CBS, said in a statement Saturday. "Kaye was always at my side throughout my career as a player, coach, NFL analyst and, most importantly, as a parent to our three daughters."
He added: "Kaye was the rock that we could all lean on in the tough times. She was looked up to by so many people and I cannot say enough about what Kaye meant to our family."
Kaye Cowher and other family members were often seen cheering from a private box at Steelers home games during Bill Cowher's 15 seasons as coach from 1992-2006. The Steelers lost four AFC title games - all at home - before finally winning the Super Bowl, and Kaye was repeatedly seen consoling her husband following those defeats.
They met at NC State, where Bill was a linebacker before beginning an NFL career. They married in 1981, after the former Kaye Young played alongside twin sister Faye in college and during a three-season pro basketball career. They played one season with the New York Stars and two with the New Jersey Gems in a league that was a forerunner to the WNBA. During the twins' WPBL careers, they filmed a Wrigley Doublemint gum commercial.
Besides her husband, Kaye Cowher is survived by daughters Meagan, Lauren and Lindsay. Meagan and Lauren played basketball at Princeton and Lindsay plays at Wofford. A private funeral service will be held Monday in North Carolina. - AP