RALEIGH — Jim Valvano would have thoroughly enjoyed being in Reynolds Coliseum this coming Friday night.
First of all, he loved the place. Put Valvano in Reynolds and it became Jims Gym.
Valvano also would have been happy, perhaps a bit humbled, to be a member of the first class inducted into the N.C. State Athletics Hall of Fame. He would have liked joining David Thompson and Roman Gabriel and the other inductees in the festivities at Reynolds.
If you knew Jim Valvano, you also know he couldnt have sat idly by. He probably would have grabbed the mike and become both master of ceremonies and inductee and would have had everyone laughing to the point of tears.
He would have been incredibly honored, but he would not have been speechless, said Nick Valvano, Jims older brother.
Valvano died of cancer in 1993 at age 47. But nearly 20 years after his death, his legacy at N.C. State is one of a championship basketball coach, of a man who served as athletics director, of a dynamic personality who did much good for the university.
Granted, Valvanos departure from N.C. State in 1990 came with much rancor. Many Wolfpack fans believed then, and believe now, that he was needlessly forced out amid accusations of NCAA violations and academic abuses that, with the passing of time, now seem mild when compared with other NCAA scandals at other schools.
Valvano may have been the most popular coach in Wolfpack history quick with a one-liner, charming and entertaining when he wanted to be, smart, crafty, and someone who knew how to win games. And he wasnt a coach who caught lightning in a bottle and won the 1983 ACC title and then the national championship. After 83, he twice led teams to NCAA regional finals and won the 1987 ACC championship, the schools last.
Thurl Bailey, a senior forward on the 83 team, likes to say Valvano began talking of winning a national title soon after being hired at NCSU in 1980. He noted, The first time we met him, he talked about his dream. He wanted us to see that vision, that goal.
N.C. State already had a national championship banner in Reynolds. The 1974 team, led by the incomparable Thompson, won the first for the school.
One day in 1982, a reporter casually mentioned to Valvano at practice that the 74 banner looked lonely at the back of the coliseum.
Oh, were going to get another one of those, Valvano replied quickly, like a husband assuring his wife hed pick up a loaf of bread on the way home.
A little more than a year later, Valvano was racing around the court at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M., looking in vain for someone to hug. The Pack had beaten Houston and its Phi Slamma Jamma bunch 54-52 in the national championship game, winning on Lorenzo Charles last-second dunk off Dereck Whittenburgs desperation 30-footer.
Soon, there were two banners in Reynolds.
A big honor for Jim is to hear other coaches talk about the kind of bench coach he was, how well-prepared he was, Nick Valvano said. If youre a coach its certainly about the wins and losses. But its also about how your players mature as people and the lives they lead.
Look at Jims players. By and large, they turned out well, didnt they?
As Whittenburg put it, Valvano talked a lot about dreams but also about life after the cheering stopped, after basketball.
Legacy thrives on, off court
The 83 team was reunited at Reynolds 10 years after the title and many tears fell. By February 1993, Valvano was dying of cancer. Then with ABC Sports, he was to work the Packs game against Duke with Brent Musberger.
Valvano was in much pain before the game and could barely walk. But he made his way to the court, hugged his players, grabbed the mike and gave a speech that was incredibly filled with emotion and love. And inspiration.
He smiled. He laughed. He led Wolfpack fans in cheers. He was Jimmy V again.
Dont give up, he said as Reynolds rocked.
Valvano died two months later. He left behind his wife, Pam, and daughters Nicole, Jamie and LeeAnn.
Valvanos basketball legacy remains. But so does the legacy of fighting cancer and trying to save lives.
The V Foundation for Cancer Research, created in 1993, has awarded more than $90 million to more than 100 facilities. Jamie Valvano Howard is a cancer survivor.
In 2008, the Jimmy V-N.C. State Cancer Therapeutics Training Program was established. Linking the foundation and the university, the program was created to help introduce young scientists to cancer therapeutic research and support their efforts.
There were coaches along the way who helped a young Jim Valvano start his career, Nick Valvano said. This is a way to help young cancer investigators get the support they need early in their careers to get started.
Had Valvano survived his bout with cancer, some in his family believe he would have one day returned to coaching. Good friend Dick Vitale believes he could have been a talk-show host to rival David Letterman and Jay Leno a superstar in the business, as Vitale put it.
He was Seinfeld before Seinfeld, Vitale said.
All that may be mentioned Friday during the Hall of Fame ceremony. Its all a part of Jim Valvanos memory.