Laugh, think, cry: words of wisdom from a new Hall of Famer

Published 4:39 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

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Just recently (on August 15), the people who own Raleigh’s PNC Arena announced that the facility and its surrounding space will undergo some major renovations and developments.

PNC Arena is home to both the Carolina Hurricanes professional hockey team and the NC State men’s basketball team. When there aren’t sporting events going on inside the building, the arena also hosts a variety of entertainment events and concerts.

In addition to $300 million for building renovations, they will also be developing the surrounding land for more entertainment venues and public gathering spaces. NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium next door, which hosts the football team, will also see some benefits from the planned expansion as well.

As an NC State basketball fan, I have made plenty of trips over the years to PNC Arena. When thinking back on it, I have an abundance of fond memories about walking the halls and settling down into my bright red seat inside. (I have some not-so-fond memories of a few really terrible basketball games… but the wins usually overshadow that!) So I’m very curious to see what the upcoming renovations have in store for the future.

But that announcement wasn’t the biggest news in NC State Athletics this month.

Just recently (August 12), former basketball coach Jim Valvano was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame along with 12 others as part of the Class of 2023.

Other members of the Hall of Fame with NC State connections include Everett Case (inducted in 1982), David Thompson (inducted in 1996), and Kay Yow (inducted in 2002). So Valvano joins a small but pivotal group that helped make a difference in NC State Athletics.

Valvano, who was also fondly known as “Jimmy V,” made his mark on the sport in 1983 when he coached his underdog team at NC State to the national championship. They were a six-seed in the tournament, and captured the final win against the number one team – Houston – on a last-second buzzer-beater shot.

That was 40 years ago, and the win is still memorable to this day.

But while that exciting coaching win might have been considered the pinnacle of Valvano’s sporting career, his other legacy is focused on winning the fight against cancer. He passed away from the disease in 1993, but not before first establishing the V Foundation for Cancer Research that same year with its famous yet simple, encouraging motto: “Don’t give up… don’t ever give up.”

According to the Foundation’s website, the organization has been able to fund nearly 1,200 cancer research grants totaling over $310 million since its inception.

“We don’t even think of him as just a basketball coach anymore,” said daughter Jamie Valvano in an interview with WRAL Sports Fan about the Hall of Fame honor. “His legacy is so much bigger for us.”

In the same article, current men’s basketball coach Kevin Keatts said, “I’m excited about the opportunity just to see him go into the Hall of Fame. It says a lot about you, as a coach, when you’re not just remembered for the championship and the coaching ability. He’s done so much off the court to battle cancer and everything else.”

I think it’s a really awesome honor that Jimmy V was chosen to be a part of the Naismith Hall of Fame, joining the best of the best that have been involved with the sport. Valvano’s coaching career took place before my time, but from everything I’ve watched and read about him over the years, I have a lot of respect for his outlook on life.

There are a lot of good quotes from the coach out there, but his most famous speech was at the 1993 ESPY Awards after he received the Arthur Ashe Courage award. It was a longer speech than usual on that stage that night, and at one point, Valvano even told off the teleprompter for a “30 seconds left” reminder.

In his speech, Valvano spoke about the love and courage of his family, who supported him along the way. He also shared a humorous anecdote about a botched speech he gave during his first ever coaching job at Rutgers University, in which he accidentally told the team to focus on the Green Bay Packers to be successful. (He meant to emulate the great Vince Lombardi, but got carried away in his enthusiasm and forgot what team he was talking to.)

But there are two quotes from the speech that I think are especially meaningful, and so I’d simply like to wrap up this week’s column by sharing Jim Valvano’s words here too:

“It’s so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it.”

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.

“But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.