The Jimmy V Legacy

I originally published “Laugh. Think. Cry.” in 2009, but it seems especially fitting to link it today, as State prepares to face Connecticut tonight at Madison Square Garden in the annual Jimmy V Classic.

Having been written in 2009, before The Carolina Way was finally revealed as the giant lie we State fans have always known it to be, it will probably even make you shake your head at its relevance to The Flagship today.

Many younger fans know of Jimmy V’s legacy only because of the replays of his transcendent, iconic speech at the 1993 ESPY’s (here). They might not know, and certainly wouldn’t remember, that weeks before, as an ESPN color analyst, before the Duke game, Jimmy V delivered the original, more intimate version of this speech in his final visit to Reynolds Coliseum. Alpha Wolf appropriately called this “more direct and personal.”

No one who saw it, especially not the 13-year old kid from the North Carolina foothills who’d only known Jimmy V as part of the State basketball he loved, would ever forget it. And even though it’s a legacy as much tragic as it is uplifting, it’s one that 20 years later defines the State fan base: enduring.

See, there was a time, believe it or not, when State basketball was synonymous with excellence. Unfortunately, there was also a time when the opportunistic local media freely spewed unfounded vitriol upon Valvano, while and our cowardly, self-serving leadership refused to defend us. For two decades, an administration rife with incompetence hardly recognized Jim Valvano’s legacy.

The problem was, for all of them, N.C. State was nothing but a brand, a business. So they broke while we never did, simply because they never appreciated that, above all, we’re an enduring, enthusiastic bunch.

We’ve just never had it in us to give up.

And tonight, through some combination of great leadership by Woodson, Yow and Gottfried, we’re playing in our second Jimmy V Classic (as pointed out below, we previously played Gonzaga at the Meadowlands in 2002), which has many of us finally looking forward, rather than looking back. And that seems appropriate.

Make sure you read the comments below this post, because that’s where the great Jimmy V stories will be.

I used to always say that if we ever somehow ended up in this event, I’d be there. And tonight I will be, so look for me on ESPN.

About LRM

Charter member of the Lunatic Fringe and a fan, loyal to a fault.

12-13 Basketball NCS Basketball NCSU Sports History

27 Responses to The Jimmy V Legacy

  1. Alpha Wolf 12/04/2012 at 5:50 AM #

    Jimmy V was always “family.” And we, the students, the alumni, and the fans of NC State, we never, ever gave up on him, nor did we ever do anything but call us one of us.

    That’s because Jim was one of us. If you saw Jim Valvano at dinner, you could walk over, and say hello and he’d be gracious enough to let his food get cold while you chatted a few minutes. Or if you saw him in the airport, he’d always shake your hand.

    He was a gentleman, a teacher and one helluva great coach. His successes and failures were examples, and long before those speeches were ever made, you could learn one thing from Jim Valvano: good things would come to you if you didn’t give up, not once, not ever.

  2. 87stategrad 12/04/2012 at 6:36 AM #

    Jimmy V was a legend, but he was “one of us”. When I was a student, a large group of us were planning a “pig picking” party just off campus. We decided it would be fun if Jimmy V came, so we walked over to the Case Athletic Center to invite him. We made it to his secretary’s desk, and was in the process of explaining to her why we needed to talk to V, when his voice yelled out “A Pig Picking?”. He came out to talk to us, and had to turn us down because he said that he would be out of town recruiting. But in that few minutes, he really was “one of us”. An amazing person is so many ways.

  3. graywolf 12/04/2012 at 7:49 AM #

    I was on Western Blvd getting gas and he pulled up after a Wake Forest win in his yellow mazda sports coup to fill up. I struck up a conversation with him and he was the perfect gentleman and was willing to talk to a student. He was the best floor coach I have ever seen and have missed his spirit for a long time.
    Its great for NC State to finally get our chance to honor his great memory on a national stage and the basketball court.
    The team needs to win this one for themselves and Jimmy V!

  4. wilmwolf80 12/04/2012 at 7:58 AM #

    FWIW, media outlets are reporting that we played in the classic in 2002.

  5. GAWolf 12/04/2012 at 8:05 AM #

    The personal stories of positive interactions with V are great! Please share more.

  6. Pack Leader 12/04/2012 at 8:17 AM #

    I “met” the great V once, when I was 6 years old, in 1989. I I was in Cary Towne Center Mall with my family (obviously) and he was with his wife and daughter. I happen to be wearing an NCSU shirt and he approched us in his all red nike jump suit and said he approved my shirt. We talked for a bit, Pam spoke with my mom about a shop or two & he even took a photo with my dad and I. As I’ve grown I’ve had the opportunity to meet other similar calibur coaches, it is always no more than a few words/autograph/picture and a moveon. V was transending in more ways than just basketball…

    Still have the photo in my office today today…

  7. WTNY 12/04/2012 at 8:18 AM #

    wilmwolf80 — Yes we did:

    12/17/2002: “Gonzaga Downs Cold Shooting Wolfpack, 69-60 in the Jimmy V Classic.”

  8. GAWolf 12/04/2012 at 8:25 AM #

    A video from the upper deck of Reynolds of the first, original Don’t Give Up speech.

    What an electric, amazing man.

  9. WolftownVA81 12/04/2012 at 8:48 AM #

    Can’t wait for the game. We’ve been in NY since Sunday seeing all the sights. Today is the Statue of Liberty then off to the Garden. My wife and I transferred to State just before our Junior years so we saw Norms last year and Jimmy’s first year. Never met him, but he was so fun to watch and we always got in line early so we got great seats on the floor, mid court, at Reynolds. Feels like we’ve finally come out of the woods and are regaining our rightful place among the premier basketball programs. Go Wolfpack.

  10. PoppaJohn 12/04/2012 at 8:49 AM #

    “V” had so many great things going for him, but I remember him as a student of the game and teacher. His pre- & post- game commentary with the radio guys was so good, when the game was in town I would listen in my car, then run into Reynolds to watch, then run back to the car after.
    He taught us a lot about basketball. He would tell us exactly what the opposing team’s tendencies were and what to watch out for – and what the Pack was going to do about it. He would talk about where certain strategies came from – the coaches that originated them.
    All these years later, I still listen to the coaches commentary in hopes of getting as much out of it as I did back then. Normally I am disappointed because coaches don’t want to give away strategy – and, they are too PC to criticize other coaches or refs.

    Looking back on that time, it is still hard to comprehend how in a very short period of time, the world turned upside down and this good guy was branded an outlaw.

  11. ADVENTUROO 12/04/2012 at 8:53 AM #

    Couple of “V” rememberances.

    First, there is a great book (Amazon or Student Supply). It is written by Bob Cairns. “V & Me …collection of stories”. It is a GREAT READ and a GREAT Christmas gift. It has the Rest of the STORY about how he got OUT of Greenville, SC and to Greenville, NC and how Snookered the crew was by then.

    Second….Jimmy V story. It was 1984 or 1985 and the Lee County WolfPack club had V. It was also the night of my young daughter’s piano recital. My son and I got permission to see V. I carried in an old beat-up cassette recorder for my wife and daughter. He started talking and then came over and turned it off….laughing, he said, “Dean would use this to beat us….”
    Finally…..Have posted this many times….but poinant…
    If you read the Lifetime Contract book, it is written with a lot of anger…..WOW….what a news flash. However, the Audio Tape is pure V. I listen to the book about once a year. There are two things that I would like to share.

    V, in his first presser (introduction) was asked how he was going to beat Dean….he made some quip that ended with “I’m going to outlive him”. Now that brings a tear to my eye when I hear him say it.

    V also, in his last year at Iona read a NYT article where Sonny Werblin was going to bring bigtime college BB back to NYC. He also read about a society or charity cocktail party that Werblin was going to be at. He took the article and crashed the party. He then found Werblin and told him he was answering the “ADD”. He kept going and finally got Werblin to give him an appointment. He then went in and kept pushing for TWO Garden Games in the 9:00 time slot against some biggies. He won the the first. The second was against #2 Louisville. Iona beat them…..handily and went on to become the NCAA Champs that year. He and the team got a standing O. V had played, at Rutgers, in the Garden. He said that win was his finest….but that would change and he told Pam that they would be moving soon. I was struck that Doeren said that after his regular season he started doing some research on places as he expected to move…

    The Garden was very special to him. Tonight should be very special to every Wolfpack Fan.

  12. PoppaJohn 12/04/2012 at 9:09 AM #

    Anyone else remember the popcorn and cigar diet? I don’t know if he made it up or not. But he said the popcorn addressed the need to chew on something and put something in his belly, and the cigar addressed the need to have something in his mouth. It worked for him. I don’t recall how much weight he lost, but I do remember it was noticeable.
    Fond memories – thanks for this

  13. packman12 12/04/2012 at 9:57 AM #

    I was fortunate to be a media member while Jimmy V was at State. What a joy to work with. I’ll never forget when he vowed to make the last shot during the final game at Carmichael (at UNC). When the game was over, he picked up the ball and made a lay-up as he walked off the court! Of course he was a quote machine, but his off the record quotes were priceless too. He once told me Cozell McQueen could do everything with a basketball expect sign it. (Just kidding of course.) A great guy that made everybody’s job a little easier and a lot more entertaining.

  14. NCSU84 12/04/2012 at 11:08 AM #

    I arrived (or is it arrove) on campus in 1980 – same year as V. As a student, he was the only BB coach that I ever knew. Its funny, coming in as a freshman, I remember hating the fact that Norm Sloan left us and now we have this green snot nosed guy from where? Iona? I guess that is what is to be expected from a freshman because as it turned out, I was the green snot nosed guy who did not know much.

  15. islandbreeze 12/04/2012 at 11:51 AM #

    I was a freshman at NCSU in 1988. I still remember fondly Jimmy V and remember the way that the Daniels family @ the N&O ran all those slanderous stories about V to this day.

  16. Wolfineer 12/04/2012 at 12:04 PM #

    I was luckily there during the glory years and relish the memories of sitting behind the opposing teams bench in Reynolds. We had to camp out for days to get those tickets and we raised all kinds of H*#@ during time outs.
    With all my time at State I never met Jimmy V personally, but my wife did. She sat beside him on a plane for a couple of hours. She went to Duke, so they had a little fun ribbing each other. At one point the plane hit some turbulence just as the flight attendent was serving Valvano his drink. It spilt and she went to get a towel. As she left, Jim turned to my wife and said “She must be a Carolina fan”. My wife said he was good natured and just enjoyed conversing during the trip. My closest brush was meeting Pam Valvano. I worked in a mall department store part time and Pam used to come in and buy ties for Jim to wear. So some of the ties he wore during games, I helped her pick out. She was always a gracious lady with her time as well.

  17. blpack 12/04/2012 at 12:07 PM #

    Lots of great things I remember about V. He promised us at a WPC meeting we’d get a local radio station to carry his weekly show. He did. That show became year-around. I thought that was the coolest thing. He was really well read and could discuss politics, hockey, food, campus life, coaching or whatever was the topic of the day.

  18. state73 12/04/2012 at 1:44 PM #

    Thanks GAWolf for sharing the link to the original “Don’t ever give up speech.” AWESOME.

  19. Texpack 12/04/2012 at 2:01 PM #

    The thing I enjoyed most about Coach V was sitting in Reynolds watching practice. I would go for a run some afternoons and then go sit in Reynolds and watch practice for 30 minutes or so before starting the nightly book work. He was an excellent tactician in addition to being a master recruiter and motivator.

    During the summer after the ’83 Championship, I called in to his radio show and asked when they were going to hang the banner in Reynolds. He said he hadn’t even thought about hanging the banner but he would come up with something. At the first home game that season, they played Wally’s call of “The Dunk” over the PA in Reynolds and then unfurled the banner.

  20. Becton901 12/04/2012 at 2:01 PM #

    After a night of carousing, we would often end up at the Chargrill on Hillsborough. Saw V there putting his order down that little chute. I don’t remember the year, but had to be before 1983.
    He was special. State was fortunate to have such a representative. Hopefully he will be recognized as such in the future.

  21. Disco Inferno 12/04/2012 at 2:57 PM #

    I met Jimmy V once, while he was still our coach. He was doing his weekly TV show at the usual Italian restaurant on Western Boulevard, and color-man Don Shea was there as always to host the show. It was Coach V’s birthday that day. There was a big game late the night before (we won!) so I was the only customer in the restaurant that Sunday afternoon while they taped the show.

    I’d never met Coach V up to that point, but in a matter of seconds you’d of thought I was one of his relations. After taping the show, I ate dinner with the the two of them (he insisted since I was alone) and I have never been witness to such a charismatic person as he was. We laughed so hard throughout that meal that we cried through two napkins. Coach V walked in laughing, and it never stopped. He was so full of life, emotion, confidence…the man had presence. He turned that restaurant into home. EVERYONE in that place was family to him – the hostess, the cooks, wait staff…he had everyone around the table at some point, laughing, talking, feeling like they belonged.

    On a bigger scale, he had the Wolfpack Nation feeling like we were family too, and we were all in it together, no matter what, and it was gonna be a fun ride. Remember V running around the floor after winning the national championship, looking for someone, ANYONE to hug, that same huge smile on his face? He was classic, and he made you proud to be a part of it all.

    So, here is my closing comment, and best memory of Coach V. At the end of dinner, Don Shea surprised V on camera. The staff brought in a birthday “cake” and we all sang Happy Birthday. The “cake” was a platter of spaghetti with candles stuck in it. Imagine the smile…

  22. Tuffy2 12/04/2012 at 8:07 PM #

    During halftime of the 1986 Peach Bowl game, I was driving to the store. We lived beside George Tarantini, the NCSU soccer coach at the time, and George had just moved out. On my way to the store, I see Jimmy V pulling into my street. I made a quick U-turn as I told my nephew “That was Jimmy V!” I went back to the house and there he was parked at George’s place.

    I ran up to him (probably scared him to death) and said, “hi Jim – I’m George’s neighbor”, etc. I used to see him all the time when I was ushering the State games at Reynolds, so to see him in my back yard was something else! We talked probably a good 4-5 minutes and he told me he was showing a prospective tenant George’s place to rent.

    To this day I remember him distinctly — in his red Nike sweatsuit w/ gold around his neck and wrist and just as personable as if he knew me all his life.

    He will always be my Paisano!

  23. john of sparta 12/04/2012 at 8:12 PM #

    talked to him via radio on Sportsline(?)
    back when Gary Dornburg was with us.
    my question was about the continued
    height increases in player positions.
    his answer was: “they’ll all be one size,

  24. wolfpack_pilot 12/04/2012 at 8:58 PM #

    I worked for Sports Information as an undergrad. One night after a Wolfpack win over Maryland, the SID (Mark Bockelman) asked if I wanted to write up the postgame comments. I asked “What do I do?”. He said, “Get a pad of paper and a pencil and try to write down everything he says. Listen fast.”

    Down under Reynolds, about a dozen reporters were there. We only got about 3 questions out, but he must’ve gone on for about 20 minutes and it would have put anyone on Charlie Goodnight’s stage to shame. I started trying to write everything, but I have NEVER heard anyone talk so fast — I don’t think he took a breath. I went back to the office, made sentences out of single words, and created quotes (they were close). I’m sure digital recorders have changed that aspect of sports reporting significantly.

    I also got to go to practices regularly (best friend was a manager). As good a gameday tactician as he was, he was miserable at motivating/pushing during practice. There were lots of games and competitions and very little drills and fundamentals. The players essentially worked as hard as they wanted to. Tevin Binns and Shack wouldn’t run sprints at all. Vinny del Negro and Walker Lambiotte would bust their tails on every drill. He ended practice by having guys run laps around the floor and he’d call guys out to make free throws. Binns ran less than a lap during the whole drill. Lambiotte probably finished 50.

    I was always impressed that V would acknowledge everyone in the dark hallways of Reynolds or Case. Don’t know if he did, but he acted like he knew everyone. The staff would all roll their eyes a lot, but everyone loved being around him.

  25. choppack1 12/04/2012 at 9:11 PM #

    Great stories all. GA Wolf – thanks for linking that. I had a chance to go to that Duke-State game, but I couldn’t motivate myself. I sat there in my apartment at the time watcing that speech, and it was the first time I’ve been moved to tears by words. Incredible – and every time I see the ESPY speech, I say to myself, I saw the REAL one.

    Loved V, it was criminal he wasn’t given a chance to right the wrongs. We’ve been paying for it for a long time. And we’re a lesser university because of it.

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