The Valvano approach to the Final Four

I friggin’ love YouTube for finds like this, an ESPN preview of the 1983 National Championship game:

Check it out. You’ll see glimpses of Valvano’s love for life, his passion for the game as well as his perspective about the relative importance of basketball in life, his pre-game instruction to “have fun” (something that the current Wolfpack coach must have learned from him) — and you’ll even see Sidney Lowe mimicking his walk!

Some highlights:

* Valvano on what he told the players before the game: “I can stand up there and tell them, ‘This is the most important thing in your life you’ve ever done! This is it! This is what’s going to give meaning to your life! This is everything!’ Or I could tell them what I do tell them, is that ‘For 40 minutes, I want you to think that this is the most important thing that you possibly could do. Soon as the buzzer goes off, when you go to the lockerroom, I want you to understand the relative unimportance of what you’ve done.”

* Reporter Schaap: “Other coaches try to shield their players, even isolate them. But Jimmy V [image from practice shows Dereck Whittenburg bear-hugging V] encourages his Wolfpack to howl, to have fun…” Whittenburg: “Curfew? We don’t have a curfew here.” Schaap: “… to chat cheerfully with armies of reporters …” Cozell McQueen: “How is he to coach? (Laughs) How is he to coach? The coach is always loose, man.” Schaap: “… to sign autographs, to savor the moment in the spotlight.” Valvano: “I tell them, it’s not going to happen often, you know, when you get out, no one’s going to put ABC cameras on you, you know? Dick Schaap’s not going to come talk to anybody, you know, at work? Enjoy it! Have fun! I am.”

* Valvano: “Basketball is not fun in North Carolina, at North Carolina State. It’s serious business. It took us a while to get used to each other.”

* Valvano: “We practice cutting the nets down every year. I have these gold scissors [pulls scissors out of blue velvet-encased box] that we use. We save these for one thing: that’s for the national one.”

* Valvano: “It’s my job to have the kids from 18 to 22, which is what I get, that they should enjoy it, that they should look back and say, ‘That was a great four years.'”

* Reporter Schaap: “Valvano is also a realist.” Valvano: “It’ll never be where all you have to do is turn out good solid citizens. No, this is a competitive world, this is college athletics. … You’re going to have to win, too.”

* Reporter Schaap: “Jimmy V wanted very much to win yesterday against favored Georgia. The crowd in Albuquerque included the parents of State stars and Valvano’s own wife and children. Coach V delivered a pre-game speech that wasn’t quite ‘Win it for the Gipper.'” McQueen, quoting V: “‘Go out and have fun; don’t be tense; just go have fun. Play ball.'”

* Reporter Schaap: “If State loses to Houston, Jimmy V says he’ll allow his players 24 hours to feel sorry for themselves and curse the basketball gods. Then, he says, he’ll tell them to pick up their butts and get back in the mainstream.”

Flashback General NCS Basketball Quotes of Note Tradition

29 Responses to The Valvano approach to the Final Four

  1. dweedle 03/26/2007 at 1:07 AM #

    GREAT FIND. I wish ESPN game previews were as pure these days as that one appeared to be.

  2. class of 74 03/26/2007 at 6:32 AM #

    Is there any doubt why we are all so happy one of this guy’s former players is running our program now. This video can not be shown enough to everyone less than 35 years of age. For they are the ones that have been brainwashed by the previous 15 or so years of non stop program degradation.

  3. mafpack 03/26/2007 at 7:45 AM #

    Awesome find! Finding clips like this is so important for my generation of WolfPack Fans to learn about our own history and continue regaining a sense of pride in our school (I was still a small child when State won the NCAAC).

    74′ is right, its going to take some time to unbrainwash guys like me, but man, what a fun process its going to be!

  4. packpigskinfan23 03/26/2007 at 7:54 AM #

    I love it when you guys come up with videos like this. I really wish I was around during that Valvano days…. When State won it all in ’83 I was a mear 3 months old. I became a huge fan at rough time in State history and its great to know that all my devotion for this school is for a reason- because I KNOW we can return to the level we were at in ’83. Its fun to see it all starting to happen.

  5. RickJ 03/26/2007 at 8:39 AM #

    A little more history for the younger crowd. Our 1974 & 1983 National Championships were nothing alike.

    In 1974, we had the superior team that was ranked number 1 going into the NCAA tournament. The Eastern Regional was played in Reynolds & the Final Four in Greensboro. Anything less than a National Championship was going to be considered a failure. There was an extreme amount of pressure on our team starting in the ACC tournament. In those days, you had to win the ACC tourney to make the NCAA’s.

    1983 was pure joy. It was so unexpected. It is hard to describe to people just how entertaining and bright Valvano was with the public. He had been waiting for this stage and he absolutely lit it up. V dominated every press conference of the tournament with his wit and charm. Allow me one small example. They had a teleconference for the press the week before the Final Four with the coaches & SID’s from Houston, Louisville, Georgia and State. I believe there was some jackleg from the NCAA running the conference call and he starts it something like asking for an opening statement from each SID. There is some dead silence and finally someone from Houston says “Houston passes”. The SID from Louisville takes this cue and says “Louisville passes”. Valvano immediately jumped in with “Raleigh bids 2 No Trump”.

  6. packpigskinfan23 03/26/2007 at 8:52 AM #

    you know… I have checked every library around here and have never been able to find a copy of V’s book. one day I will break down and buy it… any other GOOD books on NCSU’s tradition?

  7. beowolf 03/26/2007 at 9:09 AM #

    eBay has several copies. They’re going for more than Personal Fouls, too.

  8. redfred2 03/26/2007 at 9:33 AM #


    You are correct, there was a totally different feel for those two championships. ’83 was all fun and surprising with Valvano lighting up the media and doing every other college basketball coach a favor by stepping up like no other ever had, and giving the nation a look at the human side of the job. But that all mainly came about late in the season, after the ACC tournament run, and then through the incredible NCAAT run.

    To me, after going through a perfect season in ’73 with no chance to play in the post season, ’74 was just sitting out there and waiting, and I couldn’t wait for it to happen. Every game was pressure packed simply for reason that you’d think the team would stumble somewhere along the way. But they didn’t, only once did they fall, and that to the reigning dynasty of the UCLA Bruins and Bill Walton. That team got better after that single loss in two years, and when given a second chance in the ’74 NCAAT, they showed a will to play and overcome that would achieve the ultimate goal.

    For that reason, the building and building and knowing that it was all on the players shoulders,having to come out and perform night after night, with everyone gunning for them every game, then to get it done like that group did, that ’73-74 is at the top of my all time lists.

    Both ’83 and ’74 were great, of course, but ’74 was the culmination of two full years of nearly flawless basketball, with the greatest and most physically gifted player I’ve ever seen. I’m thinking it might not be too unrealistic to wonder how the third will compare to those two.

  9. Texpack 03/26/2007 at 10:50 AM #

    I downloaded this from YouTube recently. Firefox will let you do this if you install the video downloader extension. V’s comments on the relative importance of basketball brought back memories of an article that was written during his first year at State that was less than stellar. It talked about him taking Scott Parchyz (sp) over to his house. He walked him upstairs and showed him his little girl asleep and told him “That’s what’s important.” V had perspective even though he loved to have a good time.

  10. WolftownVA81 03/26/2007 at 12:04 PM #

    Brings back good memories and a confirmation of the path we are on. Thanks.

  11. Oh Ohhh 03/26/2007 at 12:34 PM #

    Good stuff. Great memories.

    Just hope current staff remembers the past and does not repeat the mistakes. The “departure/probation” of Valvano sent us on this long downward spiral of average teams.

  12. class of 74 03/26/2007 at 1:17 PM #

    ^The UNC BOG and their stooges Monteith and Turner were responsible for the long spiral downwards my friend. If Valvano had lived and remained in the job our setback would have lasted a year or two at most. And our staff does remember the glorious past not the recent putrid past and that is what gives us all hope.

  13. redfred2 03/26/2007 at 3:11 PM #

    ^Of course 74 is speaking of the coaching staff specifically there. I wouldn’t exactly say that university staff inspires quite so much hope in comparison.

  14. class of 74 03/26/2007 at 4:01 PM #

    ^EXACTLY! And thank you for that clarification.

  15. StateFoxer 03/26/2007 at 5:08 PM #

    Sorry if this is a long and inappropriate question. I’m one of the young Pack fans trying to relearn my history. What exactly was it that hobbled the program in the early 90s? I know there was probation, but why?

  16. BLUE SUCKS 03/26/2007 at 7:11 PM #

    God broke the mold when He made Jimmy V. Thankfully there is a little bit of “V” in everything Coach Sid says and does. We are very, very, very fortunate.

  17. class of 74 03/27/2007 at 5:06 AM #

    ^^The reason given by the NCAA was players (Charles Shackleford and it seems like maybe two others) sold their complimentary game tickets which was a violation. Also, some players sold their sneakers or traded them for items of clothing as I recall. Valvano was not named in any of the violations but at the time he was both HC and AD so he became the fall guy. Chancellor Bruce Poulton resigned as well not due to these violations but more from pressure from the BOG for not controlling the athletics and the embarassing admission of Chris Washburn types into the school along with the lack of academic progression of the players in general.

    There were allegations of point shaving by Shackleford that were never proven just allegations. But once suspicions were raised everything was questioned from players grades, entry into school, players character, coaches values and on and on and on. And our good friends at the N&O were front and center with daily frontpage headlines that contained facts and conjectures as well. It was so bad that politicians, mostly with UNC ties, were recommending a complete revamping of the entire NCSU administration which ultimately occurred. This is the Cliff Notes version as I recall them but it was funny I was good friends with some Duke admin. and they commented at the time it seemed that people in Chapel Hill were driving this moreso than anyone. I’ll never forget that comment as long as I live.

  18. beowolf 03/27/2007 at 2:26 PM #

    The NCAA investigation found that players were selling complimentary shoes and tickets, without the coaches’ knowledge, and also found that a donor had let a player stay at his house during Christmas vacation when the player couldn’t fly home because he was wracked with the flu (and the campus was closed). I think this was Chris Corchiani but I don’t remember exactly.

    The head investigator of the NCAA, Dave Didion, wrote a letter to Valvano saying he would be PROUD to have his son play for V.

    The other, more salacious allegations of point-shaving and grade-fixing came in Peter Golenbock’s book “Personal Fouls,” which relied on the testimony of ONE individual, John Simonds, who was the basketball manager and nursed a grudge against Valvano for not letting him play on the team, too. Golenbock’s original publisher, Simon & Schuster, backed out of publishing the book because of all the problems in it — which included factual errors, players’ names misspelled, etc., as well as the libelous material therein. Simon & Schuster published Valvano’s book “They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract and Then They Declared Me Dead.” Golenbock never interviewed either the chancellor or the AD nor recovered any other corroborating evidence.

    The N&O took the whiff of scandal and ran with it. “Nothing New in Valvano Scandal” was a familiar “front-page” news item in the banner headline; it was a near daily item. The N&O thought they had a Pulitzer-worthy investigation here; when it turned out, afterwards, to be a lot of smoke, they had no honesty in reporting that as prominently. The “Page C-8 Valvano retraction” also became a frequent occurrence.

    The clincher, however, and this is my opinion, was this: As “grade-changing” was part of the allegations, the UNC system investigated academics with respect to NC State basketball. Chris Washburn’s improbably low SAT score became public knowledge and seemed to prove the case (although it was later learned that a UNC player — I can’t remember which, and I don’t want to smear someone unfairly — had a sub-500 SAT score like Washburn). Valvano’s players’ graduation rate of about 50 percent was also much howled at. He was called to address the UNC Board of Governors about that issue.

    At the same time, NC State was hotly pursuing the “scholars’ fraternity” of Phi Beta Kappa for a chapter on campus.

    Valvano made the fateful decision of NOT falling on his sword at the BOG, but instead of showing how the basketball team’s graduation rate was RIGHT IN LINE with the rest of the university’s. Valvano said that his office wasn’t responsible for admissions. And NC State’s admissions, partly in keeping with its land-grant charter, were more lenient, making kids work for a degree after getting enrollment.

    But that revelation sorely embarrassed the university and cost them (temporarily) the Phi Beta Kappa charter (which they regarded as proof of NC State as a Real University). That was the cardinal sin IMO. Valvano offered to coach on the salary of $1, just to be given the chance to set things right, but the damage was done. University bigs wanted him and the chancellor out.

    In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether N&O editor Claude Sitton HAD vowed to get “one more scalp” before he retired, or whether UNC wanted to get rid of “the thorn in Dean’s side,” or whether Valvano was the subject of a horrible slander. The NCAA did not find any wrongdoing on the coaches’ part — the “catch-all” infraction was their own CYA of finding “lack of institutional control.” Valvano could have coached at NC State the rest of his shortened life had he not been betrayed by interests within the NC State community.

    For me, that is why his return — a month before his death — to Reynolds in 1993 was so touching and so important. It let him know that most of us loved and revered him. And it gave him a chance to reciprocate. That healed at least the most gaping wound.

  19. StateFoxer 03/27/2007 at 2:54 PM #

    Thanks for the update beowolf and 74

  20. redfred2 03/27/2007 at 3:29 PM #

    Great post beowulf!

    All of that mess still rubs me the wrong way to this very day. I can’t believe Valvano even came back to Raleigh in ’93, but he did, and he was the same guy that was run out of there. It just shows that he was a much bigger person than those who once employed him. I know I personally, haven’t ever felt the same about NC State since those days.

  21. OBXPackFan 03/27/2007 at 3:43 PM #

    For you younger Pack Fans, consider the BS that has just happened concerning the poor Duke LX players and how they were charged, tried and hung by the News & Observer before any facts were ever uncovered. This is very similar to the press crucification that happened back then. I was a senior at State in ’83 and the ride to the championship was one that I’ll never ever forget. You have heard the stories how people know what they were doing when a famous event happens….I can remember where and what I was doing the moment that I heard about Jimmy V’s passing…I was in a Hotel room in NJ on business and I cried as if a family member had died.

    All the feelings I felt about that team and Jimmy V. seemed to return this pass season….Thank you Sid….keep up the good work…

  22. Mike 03/27/2007 at 3:53 PM #

    StateFoxer, there was more to it than that, but Beowulf hit some of the nails on the head.

    I am tried and true, full blooded RED Wolfpacker, but a lot of the stuff that Golenbock wrot about did go on, and some of it was embellished. I had inside sources that I knew some of this stuff long before it was published in the book. I did not know John Simons so he is not one of my sources.

    My point is this – it is in the past, and those of us trying to pretend nothing happened need to take off our blinders. I thought V was great for the University in his prime, but then he lost sight (and frankly most of us would have also) of what was important and wanted to be a bigger star than he already was.

    SFN, if you wish, I can give you details off line, but I hate to see people downplaying this becasue the NCAA only discovered we sold shoes without the coaches knowledge. In fact, most of the stuff that ocurred was NOT V’s fault (except he was the head man, so he was also the fall guy). It was a character issue from the players. I am afraid that most of us here to quote the great Colonel Jessup “Cant handle the truth” of what really went on.

    As I said, it is in the past and V has provided a great legacy to for Sidney. Sidney will get us there.

  23. beowolf 03/27/2007 at 3:56 PM #

    Mike, I’m not downplaying it; I’m answering the public perception that Valvano oversaw a corrupt sham of a program. In Valvano’s book he admits to some of the problems that were alleged, but again, they weren’t nearly what Golenbock nor the N&O made them out to be — in part because both proceeded on shady sources in pursuit of filthy lucre (that is, blatantly committing the sins they were essentially accusing Valvano of).

    The scandal did bring about some much-needed reforms in college athletics, and I’m not downplaying that, either. It was, however, an incredible injustice to James T. Valvano to make him the national scapegoat for a problem that persisted across the wide swath of college athletics. That is what happened, however. Valvano, showing his true character, transcended even that disgrace and lifted himself to a higher plane than ever national championship winning basketball coach. The university athletics program fell into a funk it is even now laboring to get itself out of. The “leadership” at the time have all moved on, thank God. The UNC system, however, continues to treat NC State like the ugly stepsister instead of (in former UNC President Molly C. Broad’s words) the “co-flagship” of the institution.


    I mentioned it earlier; here is that speech in Reynolds in 1993 (thanks to YouTube again):

  24. burnbarn 03/27/2007 at 4:15 PM #

    that UNC player was kevin madden.

    Spot on post. I really think Claude Sitton was the driving force for Vs removal and of course his UNC buddies didn’t mind. Sitton had a tremendous distaste for the UNC system as well in terms of desegrigation. If that guy got a bug up his … then look out.

  25. Mike 03/27/2007 at 4:17 PM #

    Agreed Beowulf completely. V was the fall guy but should not have been. His main fault was the man in charge. He had no idea players threw games, did drugs, sold shoes, etc.

    Should he have known as head man? Maybe. Maybe not. The players were at fault, not V.

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