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What Jimmy V taught me

Jimmy V

In honor of the madness that is in March, I wanted to post this. More importantly this post is in memory of Coach Jim Valvano and the NC State upset of 1983.

Coach Jim Valvano is one of the most celebrated figures in college sports history for many reasons. It could be because of his incredible Cinderella story of the 1983 NC State team (a 6 seed) becoming national champions (recently featured on an incredible ESPN 30 for 30 “Survive and Advance,” check out the synopsis here…then watch it.). It could have been his unorthodox tactics, spending an entire practice cutting down the net so his players could visualize winning. It could have been his inventive coaching, using the trap and the triangle and two (basketball jargon). Jimmy V taught me something beyond basketball, he taught me how to be passionate and speak from the heart.

There are many great orators in the history of the world: MLK, JFK, my personal favorite Winston Churchill, and many, many more. However, while Coach V was not the greatest speaker or the most technically gifted he made up for it with his passion and heart. Before we get to his speech, lets talk about his story.

Jim Valvano, a New York native had a 19 year career as a basketball coach with stints at Rutgers, Johns Hopkins (I know…they have teams?), Bucknell, and NC State. He was the center of controversy where he may or may not have cheated (I don’t think he did) and was an overall inspirational human being. While he was coaching at NC State he was diagnosed with cancer changing not only his routine but his outlook on life it seems. It was after his diagnosis and winning the national championship that he gave his famous ESPY (ESPN awards) speech. This was the first speech we watched in my oral presentation class, and was one that taught me almost everything I need to know.

Jimmy V SpeakingIn the speech itself Coach V uses every rhetorical device to create, what, in this amateur speech writer’s opinion, one of the greatest speeches ever given. He starts with a joke, uses the rule of 3 (listing three things in a speech to help the audience remember), makes fun of the facts surrounding his speech (the cue card comment and the “30 second guy”), he uses lines that are memorable and moving (“time is very precious to me”), he acknowledges the elephant in the room (cancer), and uses a narrative with humor to help the audience feel engaged (one of the best narratives I have ever heard in a speech… your family, your religion, and the Green Bay Packers). He uses his motions perfectly and facial expressions match everything he says and does. There are no words that I can write to describe how the speech affects me, suffice to say you must watch it. Whether you have watched it a million times or never before, it is a speech that will get you every single time.

So we will always be grateful for the NC State Wolf Pack who, 20 years ago, where the Cinderella team that made us believe.  More importantly, we will always be grateful for, 20 years ago, Jimmy V stood tall, smiled, and gave us a piece of himself in that speech. A piece of himself that made us more than believe, it made us think, it made us smile, and it made us cry. I can only speak for myself but I will always be indebted to this man.

Click the picture to watch the speech and share your thoughts.

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