Legendary Coach Jim Valvano Never Quit

Jimmy Valvano era un allenatore ben conosciuto quando stava nel North Carolina State University. Benché sia morto quasi 30 anni fa, è ancora ricordato per il suo talento di allenatore. Valvano era anche un giornalista televisivo che lavoravo per i canali ESPN ed ABC. Lui aveva tre regole per la vita quotidiana che sempre diceva: una persona deve ridere, pensare, e piangere. Queste tre azioni, secondo lui, fanno della vita piena. Purtroppo, è morto del cancro dopo una battaglia lunga.

First-generation Italian American Jimmy Valvano closely followed on the Italian pioneering trail that Dick Vitale did in the 1970s for men’s college basketball.

Jim was the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano, both Italian immigrants. Rocco was born and raised in Guardio Lombardi, Avellini, Campania, Italy. Jim was born and raised in Queens, NY. From 1964 – 1967, Valvano played point guard for Rutgers University. During his senior year, Valvano helped lead the team to a third-place finish in the exclusive 1967 National Invitational Tournament; Valvano was named Senior Athlete of the Year.

Valvano is mostly remembered for coaching the North Carolina State University’s Wolfpack to the unlikely and miraculous garnering of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship in 1983. The team dramatically beat the highly favored University of Houston Cougars.

Rob Goldberg insightfully wrote in 1993 for The Bleacher Report: “At the beginning of the 1983 season, the entire roster practiced cutting down the nets like teams do after winning championships. This was apparently an event that the coach had every one of his squads do over the years. This alone is something that gives his team confidence and the belief that it is capable of winning it all…Every decision that Valvano made ended up working out during that 1983 season. Although the coach never was able to win another title (national championship), his legacy was never diminished.”

Valvano demonstrated his remarkable winning ways as head coach at NC State from 1980 to 1990. During his ten seasons at NC State, Valvano’s teams were the ACC’s tournament champions in 1983 and 1987, and they were regular season champions in 1985 and 1989. In addition to gloriously winning the 1983 NCAA championship, the Wolfpack then advanced to the NCAA Elite 8 in 1985 and 1986.

It all began following his graduation in 1967. Valvano began his coaching career at his alma mater, Rutgers University, where he was appointed freshman coach and the assistant for the varsity. In fact, Valvano recalled that he used one of Coach Vince Lombardi’s memorable speeches on his Rutgers freshman basketball team prior to his first game as their coach; he accidentally told the team to “fight for the Green Bay Packers,” humiliating him forever.

His 19-year career as a head coach began at John Hopkins University in Baltimore for one year before being tapped to be an assistant at Connecticut University for two years. Following that, he was the head coach at Bucknell, Iona, and finally at NC State (1980 – 1990), his final tenure.

After his coaching career, Valvano became a broadcaster for ESPN and ABC Sports. In 1992, Valvano won a Cable ACE Award for commentator/analyst for NCAA basketball broadcasts. From time to time, he was paired with basketball analyst Dick Vitale, dubbed the “Killer Vees,” with similar voices and exuberant styles. The two even made a cameo appearance, playing the role of professional movers, V & V Movers, on an episode of “The Cosby Show.”

Valvano is remembered, too, for his sustained and courageous fight against cancer and his memorable address to the nation at the 1993 ESPY audience on March 3, 1993. Remarkably and from the heart, Valvano told the viewing audience for posterity: “To me, there are three things we should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is to laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend time thinking. And number three is, you should have emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special…Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind. It cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever…Keep your dreams alive in spite of problems, whatever you have. Work hard for your dreams to come true…”

“Don’t ever give up. That’s what I am going to do with every minute left. I will thank God for the day and moment I have.” Great applause ensued, and the tears flowed from the faces of those sports celebrities and media personnel in attendance, demonstrating an outpouring of love and appreciation for Jimmy Valvano’s courage and his passion for coaching. 

In his honor after his early and tragic passing in 1993, the V Foundation was established and flourished with millions of dollars raised in charitable donations as a cancer research center, assisting cancer patients nationwide.

Coach Mike Krzyewski, the legendary head coach of Duke University Men’s Basketball, reflected in a deep heartfelt commentary on Coach Valvano: “Jimmy formed the V Foundation during the last couple months of his life. We would laugh, joke and cry at the hospital together. One night he said, I want to try to fund researchers to attack cancer. I want you to be on my team. He recruited me during that time. His wisdom and his ability to think beyond his life was incredible.”