Jim Valvano and the V Foundation
Valvano, former North Carolina State head coach established his own
cancer foundation (The Jimmy-V Foundation) ... a month before cancer took his
life. My own Father has recently died from cancer, and like Jimmy Valvano, he was an inspiration to myself and many - although in a far more quiet way.
On March 3, 1993, Jimmy V stood up and gave an acceptance speech at the very first ESPY Awards. He had just won the very first Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanity Award – granted to sports players for displaying courage in their field. No one in the room that night disputed the choice. Jimmy V was not quite 46 years of age. In just over a month, he would die from Metatastic-Adenocarcinoma, cancer.
Jimmy V was born James Thomas Anthony Valvano on March 10, 1946. His parents, Rocco and Angelina Valvano were living in Corona Queens, New York at the time. He was the middle child and lively for it. He grew up feeling loved and cared for in the middle of a devoted family.
Jim attended Seaford High School in Seaford, New York. It was here he met the woman he with who he was to start his own family. Her name was Pamela Levine and together they had 3 children: Nicole, Jamie and Lee Ann. The couple remained devoted to each other no matter where Jim worked or went.
Jim got into basketball in public school – his father was a coach, and played in high school but did not start his career until University. He played point guard at Rutgers University in 1967, alongside later All-American Bob Lloyd. Together the 2 of them led the team as high as 3rd in the NIT. Jim was a senior that year. He graduated with a degree in English and the Athlete of the Year award.
Soon after graduating, Jimmy v embarked upon the start of what was to be his life – coaching basketball. He spent 19 seasons in this vocation. 10 of these years were with the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Earlier he had coached the John Hopkins’ Blue Jays (1969-1970), the Bucknell’ Bisons (1972-1980) and the Iona Gaels (1975-1980).The highlight of his coaching career was the NCAA Championship the Wolfpack won under his leadership in the 1982-1983 season.
Yet, Jimmy V was more than a coach of basketball. He aspired to be a coach of life. In spite of his resignation under unproven allegations of point shaving and various NCAA infractions, Jimmy V was just that – a man who sought to bring to all the love of life. He laughed loud, hugged openly and was never ashamed to cry. This talent to openly embrace the emotions that are life, was to serve him in good stead more than once.
After his resignation for North Carolina State, Jimmy V took to broadcasting. He already had some experience on the circuit. He had appeared on the David Letterman show in the late 1980s. Jimmy V was also on The Tonight Show and had a small guest appearance on The Cosby Show. He became a well-liked sports broadcaster for ESPN and ABC as well as a motivational speaker. Along the way, he authored 3 books.
Life was full and never dull for Jimmy V. He lived it loud. He turned up the volume louder in 1992. This was the he discovered he had a year to live. Rather than give up, Jimmy V went forward. He spoke passionately about life and living. On February 21, 1993, he spoke to a packed audience on NCSU’s basketball court. The University was celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the 1983 Championship win. The place was packed to the rafters. The crowds roared their approval as Jimmy V spoke.
His message to them was more than a reminiscence of the “Good-old-days.” His speech spoke to them and pulled at their hearts. It was a rallying call to everyone to “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” It was a message of hope, love and persistence in the battle of and for life. It was a message Jimmy V was to repeat again a month later. This time, he stood up at the ESPY Award ceremony, ignored the warning and time limit. He spoke from the heart. His words were simple and from his heart.
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.
This was Jimmy Valvano at his finest – witty, compassionate, loving and full of life. He stood before them and announced the launching of a new cause. In conjunction with ESPN, he was forming the Jimmy V Charitable Foundation. It would do all it could to find a cure for cancer while providing education and awareness of this dreaded disease. The crowd roared, laughed and cried with and for him. At the end of his speech, they stood honoring him and his life.
The Jimmy V Foundation continues to live up to his promise. Every year they hold the Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic. There is also the Jimmy V Basketball Classic at which 4 basketball teams compete. His name is also honored in the Rutgers Basketball Hall of Fame (1993), the Hall of distinguished Alumni at Rutgers (1999), the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame (1999) and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (2004).
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