Dave Yates, coach who led Fremd girls basketball downstate while battling brain cancer, passes away

Dave Yates, who led Fremd’s girls basketball team to a third-place finish in the state tournament this spring as he was treated for brain cancer, passed away Tuesday at age 54.

“As a teacher, department chair and coach, Mr. Yates sought to inspire, and dedicated his life to educating students and demonstrating the value of hard work, respect and integrity,” District 211 Superintendent Lisa Small said in a statement Wednesday. “On and off the court, Mr. Yates built a courageous legacy. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered as an integral part of the Fremd and broader District 211 families.”

Yates led the Vikings to the Class 4A championship in 2020, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything. In 18 seasons leading the Vikings into one of the state’s premier girls basketball programs, he went 425-137, according to the IHSA website.

Fremd placed second in the state in 2015 and 2016, and fourth in 2017, all in Class 4A.

Yates was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most common and most aggressive forms of brain cancer, in April 2023. The diagnosis led to two brain surgeries.

He continued coaching this year with a head covering designed to slow the growth of the cancer, leading his team to a 30-7 finish without missing a game or practice.

“Placing at state means a lot. Getting to state means a lot,” Yates said in April 2024. “It was the culmination of support from coaches, players and everyone, all coming together.”

Fremd High School girls basketball coach Dave Yates and his players are honored for their third-place finish at state this year at a Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board of education meeting. Courtesy of District 211

Yates led Fremd to 10 Mid-Suburban League championships, 11 regional titles, five sectional titles, five supersectional titles and five trips to state. He was only the second girls basketball coach in school history, following hall of famer Carol Plodzien.

His overall record was 512-191, including his time at Highland High School in Arizona and downstate Mahomet-Seymour High School.

An Elgin native, Yates graduated from St. Edward High School, then played basketball at Elmhurst College, now Elmhurst University. He was a team captain and led the team to the Division III NCAA Tournament as a senior.

Yates was a math teacher and chaired the department at Fremd. He was enshrined in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame this year and won the National Federation of State High School Federations Spirit of Sport Award for Section 4.

But his players knew Yates beyond the record and awards.

“Mr. Yates has meant so much to me and my career as a basketball player in so many ways,” former player Haley Gorecki told the Daily Herald’s John Radtke shortly after Yates was diagnosed. “He and I have built a trust and friendship that will last a lifetime. I always tell people I wouldn't be the player I am without having Mr. Yates as my coach.

“He taught me more than just the basics, how to push myself in uncomfortable positions and so much more. I told him this every time I saw him, but if I could have had Mr. Yates as my coach for the rest of my career, I would have it that way in a heartbeat. He is so dedicated and just always wanted the best for me. Going on college basketball camp visits, or heading down to state I will remember for the rest of my life and it all happened because of Mr. Yates.

“It didn't stop there,” said Gorecki, who played on Fremd’s 2015 team and then at Duke University. “Coach Yates would always reach out while I was in college checking in to see how I was, not even just about basketball but about life. A lifelong friend and mentor I'll have for the rest of my life. I also had the privilege of having him as my math teacher for a year in high school, which made our connection and friendship the way it is now.

  Fremd girls basketball coach Dave Yates leads the Vikings against Stevenson during the Fremd Class 4A girls basketball championship final on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 in Palatine. Joe Lewnard/

“Mr. Yates has always been one of few people that I would catch up with and always want to see when I came back to the Palatine area, whether that was a visit to the school or taking a lunch break. He always kept conversations real.”

He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Kathy, and four children ages mid-20s to mid-teens: Tanner, Hope, Emma and Brooklynn. He was the third of four boys of his parents, Bob and Julie Yates.

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