Val­vano’s name will al­ways be at­tached to Reynolds Col­i­seum

The News & Observer - - Sports - BY CHIP ALEXAN­DER calexan­[email protected]­sob­server.com

Pam Val­vano Strasser said she was thrilled Wed­nes­day be­fore head­ing out to N.C. State’s bas­ket­ball game at Reynolds Col­i­seum.

A daugh­ter, Jamie Val­vano, used her GPS and the lo­ca­tion showed up as “James T. Val­vano Arena at Reynolds Col­i­seum.”

It was the Wolf­pack’s an­nual Her­itage Game at Reynolds, but this had a dif­fer­ent, spe­cial mean­ing to it. The col­i­seum, first opened in 1949, was be­ing rechris­tened in honor of the late Jim Val­vano, the Wolf­pack coach who took his team on a mag­i­cal ride to the 1983 NCAA cham­pi­onship.

“It’s un­be­liev­able,” Strasser, Val­vano’s widow, said from a court­side seat. “But like Jim would say, you have to dream. He had a dream and look what hap­pened. I’m just amazed.”

In 10 years at N.C. State, Val­vano won 209 games, ACC cham­pi­onships in 1983 and 1987 and the ‘83 na­tional ti­tle. But his forced de­par­ture from N.C. State in 1990, brought about by al­le­ga­tions of NCAA wrong­do­ing and aca­demic im­pro­pri­eties within the pro­gram, made for a bit­ter exit.

Val­vano never coached again. He died of can­cer in 1993, at age 47, but be­fore his death he helped cre­ate the V Foun­da­tion for Can­cer Re­search. Based in the Tri­an­gle, the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion has given out $225 mil­lion in can­cer re­search grants.

Val­vano’s legacy is not just as a bas­ket­ball coach or a cham­pi­onship bas­ket­ball coach, not the mer­cu­rial and ever en­ter­tain­ing Jimmy V, but as a man who valiantly fought can­cer, whose foun­da­tion seeks way to not just fight the dis­ease but per­haps one day de­feat the dis­ease.

That’s the James T. Val­vano, the man in full, who was hon­ored with the new nam­ing, made pos­si­ble by a $5 mil­lion do­na­tion from a group of Wolf­pack sup­port­ers.

“A lot of peo­ple say time heals a lot of wounds and that cer­tainly has been the case with Coach V,” former Wolf­pack point guard Chris Corchi­ani said.

Sev­eral of Val­vano’s play­ers were at Wed­nes­day’s pregame cer­e­mony be­fore the Pack de­feated Western Carolina 100-67. Corchi­ani wore a red blazer, as Val­vano of­ten did. Dereck Whit­ten­burg was there and tow­er­ing Chuck Ne­vitt and oth­ers. Jim Re­hbock, the former Wolf­pack trainer whose task was keep­ing an ex­citable Val­vano from drift­ing on to the court, was on hand.

Pack coach Kevin Keatts was the man in red this night, don­ning a red blazer and match­ing red pants. Even his loafers sported a red Wolf­pack logo.

High­lights of the Val­vano years were shown on the video board and Strasser beamed as she watched Lorenzo Charles’ win­ning dunk against Hous­ton in the 1983 ti­tle game. There also was Val­vano’s in­cred­i­bly mov­ing speech at the 10-year re­union of the ‘83 team at Reynolds, when he was dy­ing, with just a few months to live, telling Wolf­pack­ers “Noth­ing can hap­pen if not first a dream” and “Don’t ever give up.”

One can only won­der what Jim Val­vano, the son of Rocco and Angelina Val­vano, would have thought of the chance of Reynolds one day be­ing re­named and “Val­vano” at­tached to it.

“Oh, he’d have said, ‘Yeah, prob­a­bly,’” Strasser said, smil­ing.

But it is a long ti­tle: James T. Val­vano Arena at Reynolds Col­i­seum. What would Coach V have said about that sucker?

“He’d prob­a­bly have liked some­thing like Coach V’s Place,” said Chucky Brown, who played for Val­vano be­fore a long NBA ca­reer.

“It’s a lit­tle for­mal but not too bad,” Corchi­ani said. “He’d have gone with ‘The V’ or “The Jimmy V.’”

Val­vano’s first game at N.C. State and Reynolds was Nov. 29, 1980, when the Pack de­feated UNCWilm­ing­ton 83-59. His last game at Reynolds would come March 4, 1990, a 93-91 loss to Wake For­est in which Val­vano and Corchi­ani walked off the court to­gether at the end.

On March 9, 1990, Val­vano and the Pack were beaten 76-67 by Ge­or­gia Tech in the first round of the ACC Tour­na­ment in Char­lotte. On the op­pos­ing bench was Tech coach Bobby Cremins, an old friend.

“He was a great game coach, coach­ing by the seat of his pants, and I al­ways love that I was able to coach against him,” Cremins said Wed­nes­day. “And he wanted to coach again. He wanted to coach badly be­cause of his fa­ther. He was upset about the way he left N.C. State, upset about that part of his legacy.

“He def­i­nitely wanted to coach again but, of course, he got sick. And his real legacy is in fight­ing can­cer. And it’s a great legacy.”

And renaming Reynolds?

“Won­der­ful,” Cremins said. “Jimmy was spe­cial.”

‘‘

... HIS REAL LEGACY IS IN FIGHT­ING CAN­CER. AND IT’S A GREAT LEGACY.

Bobby Cremins

ETHAN HYMAN News & Ob­server

Pam Val­vano Strasser, the widow of former N.C. State bas­ket­ball coach Jim Val­vano, re­acts Wed­nes­day after the ded­i­ca­tion of James T. Val­vano Arena at Reynolds Col­i­seum. The cer­e­mony took place be­fore N.C. State’s game against Western Carolina.

SCOTT SHARPE News & Ob­server file photo

N.C. State coach Jim Val­vano works the side­line of a 1989 game against North Carolina in Reynolds Col­i­seum.

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