ESPN 30 for 30 Survive and Advance: Jim Valvano's Uniqueness Led to Title

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2013

4 Apr 1983: Head coach Jim Valvano of the North Carolina State Wolfpack celebrates with his team after the Wolfpack defeated the Houston Cougars 54-52 in the NCAA men''s basketball championship game at University Arena in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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ESPN's 30 for 30 has been an informative series that highlights the biggest stories since the network has been around. The latest, "Survive and Advance," discusses Jim Valvano and the incredible story of North Carolina State's run to the 1983 title.

The Wolfpack struggled during the season and seemed to have very little chance to even reach the NCAA tournament. That was until they went on a miraculous run to win the ACC tournament and eventually the national championship as a No. 6 seed.

While the film features the majority of players from the team discussing the season as a whole, the most interesting part was recapping the coaching job done by the late Valvano.

Throughout his life, Valvano was a unique personality. He was always known for his great speeches in public and in private, and his spirit lives on to later generations through videos and the Jimmy V Foundation that supports cancer research.

While watching the film, however, it was apparent that no other coach would have been able to lead his team on such an incredible run.

At the beginning of the 1983 season, the entire roster practiced cutting down the nets like teams do after winning championships. This was apparently an event that the coach had every one of his squads do over the years. This alone is something that gives his team confidence and the belief that it is capable of winning it all.

The mindset continued throughout the year, as Valvano kept reminding his team that it would win a championship. His motivation was beyond anything that other coaches have shown in the past. 

However, "Coach V" was more than just great speeches. All year long, North Carolina State was able to win games thanks to original coaching decisions.

Against North Carolina, the team was trailing with about one-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game. The coach told his players to start fouling, a move that was relatively original at the time.

Later in the year, Valvano even instructed his team to foul in a tie game because he thought it would give his team a chance to get the last shot and win the game. As it turned out, he was right.

Additionally, he continued to do whatever it took to help his team win. Against Virginia, he set up a triangle-and-two defense, a system usually reserved to stop two hot shooters. Instead, both defenders guarded the great Ralph Sampson. 

When his team faced Houston in the finals, one of the greatest college teams ever assembled, the Wolfpack slowed down the pace of the game and won it by a score of 54-52.

Every decision that Valvano made ended up working out during that 1983 season. 

Although the coach never was able to win another title, his legacy has never diminished. He was diagnosed with cancer and died 10 years later, but events like the 1993 ESPY Awards have continued to inspire people. 

Watching this documentary also shows the admiration that the players had for their coach. They sat around a dinner table, recalling old events, and they discussed how much they respected the person most responsible for the title run.

In sports today, there is little room for coaches like Valvano. Fans would not tolerate his type of joking around without a great deal of success, and his questionable decisions would be second-guessed by media for weeks after every game.

Still, fans should be happy that they were able to see a person like Valvano for at least a brief period. His leadership in the run to the 1983 national championship was one of the greatest coaching efforts of all time, and it was something that no one else would have been able to accomplish.


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