You don't need VC but you do need the VI client, which is Windows only I'm afraid.
If you were so inclined you \*could* do it without, but it'd be a pain, you'd need to manually create a .vmx file, create disks with vmkfstools, and then register the VM with vmware-cmd. You could then use the web access to control the VM, https://youresxserver.com/ui.
These links might help you with .vmx file generation.
Personally I'd install VMware server on your Linux desktop and then use a Windows VM to manage your ESX 3 host.
Please don't go getting all annoyed about the lack of a Linux client, it's been discussed many times and most of us agree there should be one, just add your voice to the thread in the Feature Requests section asking for a Linux VI client.
What about create a vm on VMServer then "migrate" it to ESX3 ?
just add your voice to the thread in the Feature Requests section asking for a Linux VI client.
Yep that'd work too if you prefer that method.
Remember to use vmkfstools to import the VMDKs to your VMFS volumes, if you use cp you will get disk performance problems with the VM.