Remembering Jim Valvano
I know that Jimmy Valvano is looking down from heaven, watching a lot of college basketball and smiling.
He is probably proud of his friends. After all, this is Jimmy V Week at ESPN.
I cannot believe it is almost 17 years since he left us.
I remember something he said to his friends near the end of his life, one which was cut short by the dreaded disease of cancer. He told several people that cancer would not be cured before he left, but we needed to do research to beat it in the future.
Jimmy did a lot of great things on the basketball court, roaming the sideline with so much passion and energy. I think about Jimmy V and the North Carolina State Wolfpack shocking Phi Slama Jama in 1983. Nobody thought they had a shot. That Houston team had Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, but the image of Dereck Whittenburg putting up that last-second shot and Lorenzo Charles dunking it for the win and the Cinderella story as national champion ... wow!
What Jimmy had to do earlier in the tournament was incredible. I don't know if people remember but his team beat North Carolina with Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and company; I would say that was a pretty good team, baby! Then they had to come back and beat Ralph Sampson and Virginia (in the ACC tournament) just to get into the big dance. The Wolfpack had struggled to beat Pepperdine, coached by Jim Harrick, in the first round.
The way the Wolfpack were able to run the table like that in Albuquerque was unbelievable. Jimmy had the crowd. He had the media and the fans. He was wowing them and having them eat out of the palm of his hand! You know, at the time, his wife was expecting and he said to me that if they had a boy they were going to name him Al B. Kerke. That's how much he wanted to win at the Final Four. Fortunately, they had a girl.
That said, Jimmy's legacy is so important after his life ended. You see his 1993 ESPYS speech and watch it in amazement. His battle against cancer rages on, and I am so proud to be on the board of directors of The V Foundation.
The team assembled is truly awesome, baby, with a capital A! Nick Valvano leads the team and he has put so much time and energy into the cause. His leadership is so important as he is so passionate about helping his brother's dream turn into reality.
Jimmy's former teammate at Rutgers, Bob Lloyd, is the chairman of the board for The V Foundation. His guidance and leadership have been so important.
Coach K, the best leader in all of sports, has been so vital to the success of the foundation. His friendship with Jimmy V meant so much to the whole Valvano family.
ESPN's John Saunders was as close as anyone to Jimmy. He named one of his daughters with Jimmy's initials of JTV. John has been a major factor in The V Foundation, too.
Then there is an office in North Carolina with passionate people fighting to beat this dreaded disease.
Jimmy has a great team still working hard for him. I hope that you will join it by calling 1-800-4-JIMMY-V, or you can help me out as I try to raise $1 million for cancer research through my Dickie V gala. It will be in Sarasota, Fla., on May 20, 2011, as we honor North Carolina's Roy Williams and Kentucky's John Calipari.
It will be an emotional time at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. It always is as we reflect on Jimmy's life, listen to his speech as it plays on the Garden scoreboard. Jimmy will be looking down, smiling as Kansas faces Memphis and Michigan State meets Syracuse.
Jimmy's two great passions will be in play: college hoops and fighting cancer.