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“Don t give up, don t ever give up.”(”Jim Valvano”1) This quote was made famous by Jim Valvano in the last couple years of his life. Though Jimmy V knew that he would soon die, he was still able to use this quote in the waning moments of his life. He had the never give up kind of attitude. One that many people try and emulate today. In my opinion though, he was the pinnacle of this style of living. Jim Valvano will always be remembered as one of sports greatest heroes because of the life that he lived, for his tremendous courage, and leadership on and off the court.
Jim Valvano lived a life that anyone would be very proud of. He was born on March 10, 1946 in New York (”Jim Valvano”1). He would attend Seaford high school, and later move onto Rutgers University. At Rutgers he earned a degree in English, and was named Senior Athlete of the year in 1967 (1). At the end of his college career he was Rutger s 21st all-time leading scorer, with a total of 1,122 points. He would end up coaching his first year out of college at John Hopkins University for just one year. His team would go 10-9, which was their first winning wining season in 24 years (1). Jim Valvano then had three years off from coaching. It was during this time that he would build his family. In just those short years he was able to get married and have 2 baby girls (Katz).
Jimmy V s life was now at a bit of a stand still. He was not sure if he wanted to get back into teaching and coaching, or just teaching. He knew that with coaching he would be away from his family a lot, but basketball was his passion, so he hated to be away from the game. In 1971 he thought he had his mind made up. He was going to take a teaching position at a local high school. His wife could tell though that that is not where his heart was at. He was a great teacher and he did love it, but his heart was into basketball too much. So, when he got a call later that year from Bucknell University she basically made him take the job (”Jim Valvano”1). Although his success was not measured in victories at Bucknell, Valvano turned around a program that had gone 2-19 the year before (3).
Jim Valvano loved Bucknell, and the people who were associated with the school. Although, he thought it was time for him to move on. He applied for the head coaching job at Iona College in 1975. Jimmy V would get the job, and would actually be there for five years. So far in his fairly young career, this is where he received his most success. His five year record was 99-47, taking them to the NCAA tournament two times (”Jim Valvano”1). Bigger and better jobs would await him though, as he took over an ACC powerhouse, North Carolina State in 1980 (1). This is where Jimmy V was said to have made a name for himself in sports history. He was said to be a student of the game, with great coaching styles and techniques that would separate him from all the other coaches in the country (Katz). It was his off the court relationships with the players that won over many peoples hearts. Valvano was not just interested in players because of their abilities, but rather he was concerned about the player himself. This love for his players is said to be why his 1983 team won the National Championship.
Courage is a word that could definitely be synonymous with Jim Valvano. He was a world renowned coach, that was a 2 time ACC coach of the year, and had a national championship under his belt. After his coaching career, Jimmy V still wanted to stay in basketball somehow. So, in 1990 he signed with ABC/ESPN as a basketball Commentator/Analyst (”Jim Valvano” 2). Only after 2 years of doing so, he was rewarded with the ACE Award of Cable Television for Commentator/Analyst NCAA Basketball for ESPN (2). It was in that same year that Jimmy V would have to show his real courage though. On June 19,1992 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was just 10 short months later that he would die. The fight that he put up with during that time was truly remarkable.
Jim Valvano did a lot during his ten month battle with bone cancer that showed his never give up attitude. In November of that year he would return to ESPN calling color commentary during pre-season NIT (”Jim Valvano”2). Then in February Valvano returned to North Carolina State University to help celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the 1983 NCAA Basketball Championship (2). All of this took great determination and will to do during his time of great sickness. Then, came one of the most memorable moments in sports history. It was the night of the first ever ESPY award show by ESPN. The ESPY s are awards each year for great sports accomplishments and outstanding plays. Barely being able to walk up to the podium, Jim Valvano was so weak, he received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. In his speech, he announced that with ESPN s assistance, he was starting the V foundation for Cancer Reasearch (2).
The V foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives by helping to find a cure for cancer. The Foundations 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 Foundation performs these dual roles through advocacy, education, fundraising, and philanthropy (”Jim Valvano” 3). The organization was a non-profit, tax-exempt foundation. Specifically, the V Foundation seeks out promising young researchers from hospitals across the country who need early developmental, critical-stage grant support (3).
Since Jim Valvano started the V Foundation they have raised over $16 million for cancer research and awarded over 120 research grants(Katz). The Foundation operates with a small staff, a volunteer network, and an all-volunteer Board of Directors, so that they can pass on every dollar possible to cancer research. They are proud to say that 78% of their revenue goes directly to fund cancer research and awareness grants (”Jim Valvano”3).
To have the tag of a leader is an ultimate sign of respect. Jim Valvano had that when he was alive and after he had past. Some of his leadership skills were contributed to his father. Valvano received much confidence from his father, which intern gave him the ability to have that same kind of confidence in himself, and which made so many people look up to him. “My father gave the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me”(TPCN). That belief in himself gave Jim Valvano the bases for the great leadership that he showed on and off the court. With leading Rutgers University as a player, the university thought his skills should be commended. So, in 1993, Jim Valvano became the first player inducted into the Rutgers University Basketball Hall of Fame (Hall of Distnguished Alumni-1999″).
The honors for Jimmy V would not end here. That next year, Jim Valvano would be Inducted to the Iona College Goal Club Hall of Fame (”Jim Valvano”2). That really demonstrates the influence that his leadership and courage had on that college. Five years later, while the V foundation was still making a lot of money for their research, Jim Valvano was inducted into the Rutger s Hall of Distinguished Alumni. That same year he received another honor as he inducted into yet another Hall of Fame. This time it would be into New York City s Basketball Hall of Fame (”Hall of Distinguished Alumni-1999″).
The time and leadership skills for the V foundation that Jim Valvano put in are really paying off right now. It has raised over $4.5 million in just seven years (”Hall of Distinguished Alumni-1999″). The Jim Valvano Day Hospital at Duke University and the Jim Valvano Laboratory at the University of North Carolina are also V Foundation projects(”HDA”).
Jim Valvano s relationship goes back to Duke University with their Men s Head Basketball Coach, Mike Krzyzewski. He believed heavily in Jimmy V s way of life and leadership. Mike Krzyewski once said,
Too many rules get in the way of leadership. They just put you
in a box People set rules to keep from making decisions
Jimmy didn t have many rules .He was the decision maker.
Jim Valvano s relationship also went back to North Carolina University with former Tar Heel coach, Dean Smith. Many people were part of their “Basketball Family.” One other person that worked with Jimmy V, that helped a lot in the V Foundation was his dearest friend Dick Vitale. They were friends when he was at North Carolina State, and they called many basketball games together at ESPN (TCPN).
So, Jim Valvano was used of being a leader his entire life. He was looked up to by many people. He was 346-212 in 19 seasons as a NCAA head coach. During his tenure, he appeared in eight NCAA Tournaments and of course, won a National Championship with North Carolina State University in 1983 (”Jim Valvano”2). Jim Valvano s life is a story of courage and determination. In his career as a basketball coach and sports commentator, and in his life away from the game, Valvano live out his immortal call “Don t give up Don t ever give up” (2).
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