Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jim Valvano Biography

Jim Valvano Biography
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James Thomas Anthony Valvano, (March 10, 1946–April 28, 1993), nicknamed Jimmy V, was an American college basketball coach.

While the head coach at North Carolina State University, he won the 1983 NCAA Basketball Tournament against high odds. Valvano is remembered for running up and down the court after winning the 1983 NCAA championship, seemingly in disbelief and looking for someone to hug. He is also remembered for his 1993 ESPY Awards speech, given shortly before he died of cancer.

Valvano was the middle child of Rocco and Angelina Valvano, and was married for 25 years to his high school sweetheart, Pamela Levine. They have three daughters: Nicole, Jamie, and Lee Ann. Valvano attended Seaford High School on Long Island, New York.

Vince Lombardi was Valvano’s role model. Valvano told an ESPY audience, on March 4, 1993, that he took some of Lombardi’s inspirational spe

eches out of his book Commitment to Excellence and used them with his team. Valvano discussed how he planned to use Lombardi's speech to the Green Bay Packers in front of his Rutgers freshman basketball team prior to his first game as a coach.

College playing career

Valvano was a point guard at Rutgers University in 1967, where he partnered with first-team All American Bob Lloyd in the backcourt. Under the leadership of Valvano and Lloyd, Rutgers finished third in the 1967 NIT Tournament, which was the last basketball tournament held at the old Madison Square Garden. Jim was named Senior Athlete of the Year at Rutgers in 1967. He graduated with a degree in English in 1967.

Coaching career

Valvano's 19-year career as a head basketball coach included stops at Johns Hopkins, Bucknell, Iona, and NC State. His career record was 346-212. During his 10 year NC State career, Valvano's teams were the ACC Tournament Champions in 1983 and 1987 and the ACC regular season champions in 1985 and 1989. The Wolfpack won the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship in 1983, in addition to advancing to the NCAA Elite 8 in 1985 and 1986. He was twice voted ACC coach of the year. Valvano became NC State's athletic director in 1986.

Valvano's famous reaction after the Wolfpack victory came after the game-winning shot in the 1983 NCAA finals. Dereck Whittenburg heaved a last-second airball that was caught and dunked by Lorenzo Charles as time expired. By a score of 54-52, NC State beat a top seeded University of Houston team that was on a 26-game winning streak and was lead by future Basketball Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. Previously, NC State won the college basketball championship in 1974.


In 1990, accusations of rules violations surfaced in the book Personal Fouls by Peter Golenbock. Two local newspapers and the NC State student paper called for his ouster. A 1989 NCAA investigation cleared Valvano, but found that players sold shoes and game tickets. As a result, NC State placed its basketball program on probation for two years (the maximum) and was banned from participating in the 1990 NCAA tournament.

The state-appointed Poole Commission issued a 32-page report that concluded that there were no major violations of NCAA regulations, and that Valvano and his staff's inadequate oversight of players' academic progress violated "the spirit, not the letter of the law." After this report, Valvano was forced to resign as the school's athletic director in October 1989.

He remained as basketball coach through the 1989-1990 season. Under subsequent pressure from the school's faculty and new Chancellor, Valvano negotiated a settlement with NC State and resigned as basketball coach on April 7, 1990. Six separate entities investigated Valvano and the NC State basketball program including the NC State Faculty Senate, the North Carolina Attorney General, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, the NC State Board of Trustees, and the NCAA. None of them found any academic, recruiting, or financial improprieties.

Valvano's version of these events can be found in his 1991 autobiography, Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead.

The following letter from Bob Valvano offers his point of view on the firing of Valvano:

I appreciate the kind words about your wishes for the book, and very much appreciate your candor about my brother and his reputation. Your summation is in fact one of the main reasons I want to write the book. I agree that he has been 'sanctified' and it is for the wrong reasons. He got sick and died very young, and handled it with great dignity and courage. I am proud of that. But he really was no different in his illness than he was in health. It was simply the perception, publicly, that changed, and your comments are a reflection of that. Let me ask you a question. You say Jim ran one of the dirtiest programs in America. Did you know that after three investigations, the only thing he was ever accused of was that his players sold complimentary athletic shoes and tickets? Period. Did you know that? Did you know that the guy who ran the NCAA investigation, Dave Dideon, a hardened veteran of dealing with slick, underhanded coaches, said that he never investigated a more misunderstood coach than Jim, and that following the investigation, he wrote a letter to Jim saying that if he had a son, he would be proud to have him play for Jim? Probably not, and my guess is that if you did, you would rather not have it cloud your preconceived judgment that Jim was a bad guy. He made mistakes. He tried to do too many things at once. He assumed details were being tended to that weren't, that he should have seen to. But dirty program? Astoundingly inaccurate, but perpetuated, as is the misconception that he became a 'good guy' when he got sick. He was always a 'good guy,' an inspiring guy, and he made his share of mistakes. Both have been blown out of proportion, and it makes Jim a cartoon character. Please don't take my remarks personally . . . I am probably tilting at windmills to think I will change anyone's mind, but it is a noble fight. To fight it, I can't, and won't, make Jim out to be a saint, but the criticisms are as inaccurate as the accolades are simplistic. It is worth trying. -Bob Valvano

After coaching

After his coaching career, Valvano was a broadcaster for ESPN and ABC, including a stint as a sideline reporter for the inaugural season of the World League of American Football. In 1992, Mr. 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. The two even made a cameo appearance, playing the role of professional movers, on an episode of The Cosby Show.

Valvano created JTV enterprises to guide many of his entrepreneurial endeavors. He gave hundreds of motivational speeches across the country and was a featured guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Late Night with David Letterman.

One of Valvano's most memorable motivational speeches was delivered February 21, 1993 at Reynolds Coliseum on NCSU's basketball court during the ten year commemoration of the University's 1983 NCAA championship. It was during this speech that Valvano stressed the importance of hope, love, and persistence and included his famous "Don't give up, don't ever give up" quotation.

ESPY speech and death

Valvano was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer in June 1992. In July, he found out that it had spread.

Shortly before his death, he spoke at the inaugural ESPY Awards, presented by ESPN, on March 4, 1993. While accepting the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, he announced the creation of the "V Foundation", an organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. He announced that the foundation's motto would be "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." During his speech the teleprompter stated that he had 30 seconds left, to which Valvano responded, "They got that screen up there flashing 30 seconds, like I care about that screen. I got tumors all over my body and I'm worried about some guy in the back going 30 seconds." His speech has become legendary, and he closed the speech by saying, "Cancer can take away all of 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. I thank you and God bless you all." One particularly poignant section of Valvano's speech is as follows:

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And Number three is, you should have your 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.

Valvano received a lengthy standing ovation. He died less than two months later after a year-long battle with cancer. He is interred in the Cedar Hill Section of Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.


A 1996 TV-movie titled Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story, starred Anthony LaPaglia as Valvano. In 1993, Valvano was inducted into the Rutgers' Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1999, Valvano was inducted into both the Hall of Distinguished Alumni at Rutgers University and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2004, Valvano was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

V Foundation

The V Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives by helping to find a cure for cancer. The foundation seeks to make a difference by generating broad-based support for cancer research and by creating an urgent awareness among all Americans of the importance of the war against cancer. The V Foundation performs these dual roles through advocacy, education, fundraising, and philanthropy. Its motto is “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

The Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic has traditionally been held in August at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, North Carolina, however in 2006 the Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic was moved to Pinehurst, NC so that it could attract higher profile players to the fundraiser. Each year, four men's college basketball teams compete in the "Jimmy V Basketball Classic". Recently, a women's game was added to the lineup. To date, the V Foundation has raised over $70 million for cancer research.