Jim Valvano

Jim Valvano

Jim Valvano
Sport(s) Basketball
Biographical details
Born (1946-03-10)March 10, 1946
Queens, New York
Died April 28, 1993(1993-04-28) (aged 47)
Durham, North Carolina
Alma mater Rutgers University
Playing career
1964–1967 Rutgers
Position(s) Point guard
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1967–1969 Rutgers (asst.)
1969–1970 Johns Hopkins
1970–1972 Connecticut (asst.)
1972–1975 Bucknell
1975–1980 Iona
1980–1990 North Carolina State
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1986–1989 North Carolina State
Head coaching record
Overall 346–210 (.622)
Accomplishments and honors
NCAA Division I Tournament Champion: 1983
ACC Tournament Champion: 1983, 1987
1989 ACC Coach of The Year
Arthur Ashe Courage Award
Cable ACE Award for Commentator/Analyst

James Thomas Anthony "Jim" Valvano (March 10, 1946 – April 28, 1993), nicknamed Jimmy V, was an American college basketball player, coach, and broadcaster.[1]

While the head basketball coach at North Carolina State University, he won the 1983 NCAA Basketball Tournament against long odds.[2] Valvano is not only remembered for running up and down the court after winning the 1983 NCAA championship, seemingly in disbelief and looking for someone to hug, but also for his inspirational 1993 ESPY Awards speech,[3] given just eight weeks before he died of metastatic cancer.[4]


  • Biography 1
    • Personal 1.1
    • College playing career 1.2
    • Coaching career 1.3
    • Head coaching record 1.4
      • Controversy 1.4.1
    • After coaching 1.5
    • ESPY speech 1.6
    • Yankees 1.7
    • Death 1.8
  • Legacy 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4



Valvano was the middle child of Rocco and Angelina Valvano, and was born in Corona, Queens, New York.[5] Valvano was a three-sport athlete at Seaford High School in Seaford on Long Island and graduated in 1963.[6] He married his high school sweetheart, Pamela Levine, and they had three daughters: Nicole, Jamie, and Lee Ann. His younger brother Bob is a sportscaster and former basketball coach.

Football coach Vince Lombardi was Valvano's role model. Valvano told an ESPY audience, on March 3, 1993, that he took some of Lombardi's inspirational speeches out of the 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 their 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 National Invitation Tournament (NIT), which was the last basketball tournament held at the old Madison Square Garden. (The 1967 NCAA Tournament field was just 23 teams and the NIT invited 14 teams.) He was named Senior Athlete of the Year at Rutgers in 1967, and graduated with a degree in English in 1967.

Coaching career

Following graduation, Valvano began his coaching career at Rutgers as the freshman coach and assistant for the varsity.[6] His 19-year career as a head basketball coach began at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for a season; he was then an assistant at Connecticut for two years. Following that, he became the head coach at Bucknell, Iona, and North Carolina State. Following Norm Sloan's departure to Florida, Valvano was hired at NC State on March 27, 1980, and made his debut on November 29, when the Wolfpack defeated UNC-Wilmington 83-59.[7] 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,[8] in addition to advancing to the NCAA Elite 8 in 1985 and 1986. 'Coach V' was voted ACC Coach of the Year in 1989. Valvano became NC State's athletic director in 1986. His overall record at NC State was 209–114 (.647) and his career record as a head coach was 346–210 (.622).

Valvano's famous reaction of running around on the court looking for somebody to hug in the moments after the Wolfpack victory came after the game-winning shot in the 1983 NCAA finals. Dereck Whittenburg heaved a last-second desperation shot that was caught short of the rim 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 led by future Basketball Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. Previously, NC State won the college basketball championship in 1974 under Sloan; the Wolfpack ended UCLA's streak of seven consecutive national titles when it beat the Bruins and Bill Walton 80-77 in double overtime in the national semi-final game.

Head coaching record

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (Middle Atlantic Conference) (1969–1970)
1969–70 Johns Hopkins 10–9
Johns Hopkins: 10–9
Bucknell Bison (Middle Atlantic Conference) (1972–1975)
1972–73 Bucknell 11–14 6–4 T-2nd
1973–74 Bucknell 8–16 2–8 T-5th
1974–75 Bucknell 14–12 4–4 T-3rd
Bucknell: 33–42 12–16
Iona Gaels (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) (1975–1980)
1975–76 Iona 11–15
1976–77 Iona 15–10
1977–78 Iona 17–10
1978–79 Iona 23–6 NCAA 1st Round
1979–80 Iona 28–4 NCAA 2nd Round
Iona: 94–45
North Carolina State Wolfpack (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1980–1990)
1980–81 NC State 14–13 4–10 7th
1981–82 NC State 22–10 7–7 4th NCAA 1st Round
1982–83 NC State 26–10 8–6 T–3rd NCAA Champions
1983–84 NC State 19–14 4–10 7th NIT 1st Round
1984–85 NC State 23–10 9–5 T–1st NCAA Elite Eight
1985–86 NC State 21–13 7–7 T–4th NCAA Elite Eight
1986–87 NC State 20–13 6-8 6th NCAA 1st Round
1987–88 NC State 24–6 10–4 2nd NCAA 1st Round
1988–89 NC State 22–9 10–4 1st NCAA Sweet 16
1989–90 NC State 18–12 6–8 T–5th
NC State: 209–110 71–69
Total: 346–210

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


In 1990, accusations of rules violations surfaced in the book Personal Fouls by Peter Golenbock. These accusations centered mostly on high school All-American Chris Washburn, who managed only a 470 out of 1600 on his SAT (with 400 being the starting score).[9] 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 recruiting or financial improprieties. However, a school investigation did reveal that Valvano's student athletes did not perform well in the classroom, as only 11 of the players that he coached prior to 1988 had maintained an average of C or better.[10] This was perhaps due to his persistence in recruiting students deemed to be "academic exceptions."

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.

After coaching

After his coaching career, Valvano was a broadcaster for ESPN and ABC Sports, including a stint as a sideline reporter for the inaugural season of the World League of American Football. 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 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 Starring 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

Valvano was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer, in June 1992.[1][4][6][11][12]

On March 3, 1993, shortly before his death, he spoke at the first ESPY Awards, presented by ESPN.[13] While accepting the inaugural

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.[14]

Valvano's memorable ESPY acceptance speech became legendary. He closed 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.

He received a standing ovation from the ESPY crowd.

Valvano's hair was expected to fall out with chemotherapy treatment, but it didn't. Along with his ever-positive outlook, this masked to the public how serious his sickness was and the amount of pain he was dealing with.[1][11] He had preemptively had his head shaved and was prepared to use a variety of whimsical wigs on his broadcasts. But his own hair remained.[4]


New York native Valvano had always wanted to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. He had been given that honor for the 1993 season opener to be held on April 12, but he was too ill to do so. Coaching rival and friend Dean Smith substituted for Valvano.


Valvano died April 28, 1993 at age 47, less than two months after his famous ESPY speech, following a nearly year-long battle with metastatic cancer.[5] Valvano died at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina on April 28, 1993, ten years to the month after winning the national championship in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.[5][6] He is buried in the Cedar Hill Section of Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. His tombstone reads: "Take time every day to laugh, to think, to cry."

Lorenzo Charles, the player who scored the winning basket in the 1983 NCAA championship game, died in a bus crash on June 27, 2011 and was buried in proximity to Valvano in Oakwood Cemetery. Charles was 47 years old at the time of his death, the same age as Valvano.[15]


In 1983, Valvano coined the term "Survive and Advance"[16]

A 1996 TV movie titled Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story, starred Anthony LaPaglia as Valvano. The movie was filmed in various locations including Wilmington, North Carolina and on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

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. In 2012, he was named to the first class of the NC State Athletics Hall of Fame.[17]

In 2013, ESPN's 30 for 30 Films created a film about North Carolina State's 1983 Championship run, called Survive and Advance. Along with the 1983 season, it also covered the final months of his life during his battle with cancer. In 2014, fellow cancer victim and broadcaster Stuart Scott was presented with the Jimmy V Award for his own inspirational fight against cancer.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Smith, Gary (January 11, 1993). "As time runs out". Sports Illustrated. (cover story): 10. 
  2. ^ "Wolfpack stuffs Cougars for title". Milwaukee Sentinel. April 5, 1983. p. 1-part 2. 
  3. ^ Full Video & Transcript of ESPY speech
  4. ^ a b c Smith, Gary (May 10, 1993). "Jimmy Vee hung in there". Sports Illustrated: 72. 
  5. ^ a b c Thomas, Robert M., Jr. (April 29, 1993). "Jim Valvano, colorful college basketball coach, is dead at 47". New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d Wojciechowski, Gene (April 29, 1993). "Valvano dies after cancer fight". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  7. ^ Historical State: History in Red and White. "Jim Valvano's debut (11/29/1980)". Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  8. ^ Historical State: History in Red and White. "Men's Basketball wins NCAA championship (4/1983)". Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Vecsey, George (February 19, 1985). "State's Washburn wasn't recruited on basis of academic qualifications". Lawrence Journal-World. (N.Y. Times News Service). p. 11. 
  10. ^ Johnson, Roy S. (June 18, 1990). "Take the V out of TV, please". Sports Illustrated: 90. 
  11. ^ a b Bock, Hal (November 19, 1992). "Each day special for Jim Valvano". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. p. 3D. 
  12. ^ Meachem, Matt (December 4, 1992). "Jim Valvano battles his toughest opponent". Post and Courier ( 
  13. ^ "Jimmy's 1993 ESPY Speech". YouTube. 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  14. ^ Valvano, Jim (4 March 1993). "ESPY Awards Speech". The V Foundation. Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  15. ^ 83 legend Lorenzo Charles dies in crash"'".  
  16. ^ http://www.barrypopik.com/new_york_city/entry/survive_and_advance/
  17. ^ WRAL: Yow, Valvano among first 10 in NC State Hall of Fame
  18. ^ Stuart Scott Accepts Jimmy V Award
  • Cairns, Bob (2005). V & Me: Everybody's Favorite Jim Valvano Story. Alexander, NC: Alexander Books.  
  • Cole, Marcus (Director); Greenman, Adam (Writer) (1996). Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story (Motion picture (made for television)). Sherman Oaks, CA: Daniel H. Blatt Productions. 
  • ESPN (1993). ESPY Awards (Television). Bristol, CT: ESPN Original Entertainment. 
  • Towle, Mike (2001). I Remember Jim Valvano: Personal Reflections and Anecdotes About College Basketball's Most Exuberant Final Four Coach, As Told by the People and Players Who Knew Him. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House Publishing.  
  • Valvano, Bob (2001). The Gifts of Jimmy V: A Coach's Legacy. Chicago, IL: Triumph Books.  
  • Valvano, Jim; Kirkpatrick, Curry (1992). Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead. New York, NY: Pocket Books.  
  • Wojnarowski, Adrian (2008). Jimmy V: The Life and Death of Jim Valvano. New York, NY: Gotham Books.  

External links

  • V Foundation for Cancer Research
  • ESPY Award Speech by Jim Valvano - Video & Full Transcript
  • ESPY Award Address in Text, Audio, Video
  • Jim Valvano Timeline
  • Jim Valvano at Findagrave.com
  • National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame