Magical Mystery Guest

Jimmy V Classic: Huskie Pride

The V Foundation has decided to hand over the blog to some great sports writers from a few of the universities participating in the Jimmy V Classic this winter. Tonight, the coaches from the Classic will be honored in New York at a benefit dinner for The V Foundation. The first blog was written by Dan Agabiti, Sports Editor of The Daily Campus at the University of Connecticut. Photos are from The Daily Campus and were taken by Kevin Scheller and Ed Ryan, respectively.

When I think of The V Foundation, I can’t help but think about that legendary speech that the late Jim Valvano delivered at the ESPY Awards back in March of 1993.

The crux of his speech was simple, but was it ever powerful.

“Don’t give up . . . Don’t ever give up!®” he said over 19 years ago, and there are still no words that can send a tingle down the spine of a sports fan like those can.

Shortly after that speech at the inaugural ESPY Awards, cancer got the best of Valvano and he died.

What now lives on is the memory of Valvano, a man well aware that as much as cancer can take a toll on the human body, it is incapable of defeating the mind, the heart and the soul.

Back in ’95, this tournament, the Jimmy V Basketball Classic, started as a means to raise money for cancer research and 17 years later, the tournament is still going strong.

For the UConn women’s team, this is nothing new. It’ll be the fifth time the Huskies have participated in the Jimmy V Classic, but for the men’s team, this is the Huskies’ first time in the tournament.

I can think of no better time for UConn to play in its first Jimmy V Classic.

In September, coach Jim Calhoun, a man who has dealt with cancer on three different occasions in his life, retired from coaching basketball. Needless to say, funding for cancer research is something that is near and dear to Calhoun’s heart.

Back in 2006, he was honored at the Spirit of Jimmy V Gala and he was grateful to be able play such a role  in the fight against cancer.

“Any time you can raise money for cancer research and create awareness, it’s a great thing,” he said in his speech according to the Hartford Courant. “And to be a part of it is a great honor.”

Calhoun then went on to say that the fight against cancer is one that is an extremely challenging one, but one that is more than worth it.

“It certainly takes courage to fight to save your own life, but it takes even more courage to fight to save your own, and fight to save and improve so many others,” Calhoun said.

Women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma also has that same passion for the cause of cancer research and treatment. On numerous occasions apart from the Jimmy V Classic, Auriemma has partnered with The V Foundation to raise money for the organization.

These games played in early December will be more than merely gauges of how the teams will perform for the rest of the season. They will be more than just a chance for Auriemma and the new men’s coach, Kevin Ollie to work out the kinks in their respective teams’ offenses and figure out how to score more points in transition.

On December 3 when the women Huskies take on Maryland at the XL Center, and on December 4 when the Huskie men’s team faces North Carolina State (the school Valvano once coached) at Madison Square Garden, it will be for more than early standings, it will be for the honor of promoting a cause that is well worth it.