Dick Vitale, college basketball’s top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during
the 1979-80 season – just after the network’s September 1979 launch – following
a successful college and pro coaching career. In 2008, Vitale received the sport’s
ultimate honor when he was selected as an inductee into the Naismith Memorial
Basketball Hall of Fame.
His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate, never boring, style. Vitale called ESPN’s first-ever major NCAA basketball game – Wisconsin at DePaul on December 5, 1979. Since then, he’s called over a thousand games including NBA contests for ESPN during the 1983 and 84 seasons. Vitale is also a columnist for Basketball Times, has served as a guest columnist for USA Today since 1991, and has been a featured guest on virtually every sports radio station across the nation.
“I’m living the American dream,” Vitale once said. “I learned from my mom and dad, who didn’t have a formal education, but had doctorates of love. They told me that if you gave 110% all the time, a lot of beautiful things will happen. I may not always be right, but no one can ever accuse me of not having a genuine love and passion for whatever I do. And ESPN has been grateful enough to recognize this. And while his knowledge, preparation and enthusiasm are unparalleled, his “Vitale-isms” have unwittingly taken on a life of their own. Just a few of his many household phrases: “Awesome, Baby!”, “Get a TO Baby!” (call a timeout), “”PTP’er” (prime-time player), “M&M’er” (a mismatch), “Rolls Roycer” (a flat out superstar), “diaper dandy” (freshman star).
But Vitale’s roots are in teaching the game he’s loved since a child. Following college, he got a job teaching at Mark Twain Elementary School (Garfield, N.J.) and coaching junior high school football and basketball. He began coaching at the High school level at Garfield High School, where he coached for one season (1963-64). He then earned four state sectional championships, two consecutive state championships, and 35 consecutive victories during his seven years at his alma mater – East Rutherford, N.J., High School (1964-70). He joined Rutgers
University for two years (1970-72) as an assistant coach, helping to recruit Phil Sellers and Mike Dabney, two cornerstones on an eventual NCAA Final Four team (1976).
Vitale then coached at the University of Detroit (1973-77), compiling a winning percentage of .722 (78-30), which included a 21-game winning streak during the 1976-77 season when the team participated in the NCAA Tournament. Included in the streak was a victory in Milwaukee over Al McGuire’s eventual national champion Marquette team. In April 1977, Vitale was named Athletic Director at
Detroit and later that year was named the United Fund’s Detroit Man of the Year. In May 1978, he was named head coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, which he
coached during the 1978-79 season prior to joining ESPN.
The always-energetic Vitale is a favorite endorser among a wide array of major corporations. He’s also is one of the nation’s most requested speakers, providing motivational speeches to numerous leading corporations and organizations across the U.S. He has an exclusive contract with the Washington Speakers Bureau. Vitale is on the Board of Directors of The V Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. He has an annual Dick Vitale Gala which has raised over $1 million dollars every year for the past 7 years. Vitale has also been a strong supporter of throat cancer research. He has spearheaded a strategic alliance between the V Foundation and researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center to pilot innovative new surgical treatment strategies.
For many years he’s awarded five scholarships annually to the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota, FL. His involvement with the organization was highlighted in April 1999
with the “Dick Vitale Sports Night,” an annual banquet that has raised more than $1 million. In April 2000, in recognition of Vitale’s support for the Boys and Girls Club, it was announced that a new building would be named The Dick Vitale Physical Education and Health Training Center. Vitale was inducted into the Sarasota’s Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame at the 2001 Dinner. In 2002, Sarasota Magazine named him one of the area’s most influential citizens.
Vitale is also a member of advisory boards for the Harlem Globetrotters and the Henry Iba Citizen Awards. Additionally, he participates on selection committees for both the Naismith and Wooden Awards and is a member of the Associated Press voting panel for the Top-25. He is also a voter for the Hall of Fame’s Bob Cousy Awards. Vitale has also authored nine books, including one children’s title, “Dickie V’s ABC’s and 1-2-3’s” (2010), “Dick Vitale’s Fabulous 50 Players and Moments in College Basketball” (2008) and 2003’s “Living a Dream (Reflections on 25 Years Sitting in the Best Seat in the House)”. In 1988, Simon & Schuster published “Vitale”, an autobiography which was issued in paperback in 1989. In 1991, “Time Out Baby!”, his second book was published. The book, written with Dick Weiss, chronicled the 1990-91 season. In 1993 his third book, “Tourney Time” was published. In 1994, “Dickie V’s Top 40”, his fourth book was published. In September 1995, he co-wrote a fifth book, also written with Weiss, called “Holding Court: Reflections on the Game I love.” His sixth book, also with Weiss, was released in 1999 – “Campus Chaos: Why the Game I Love is Breaking My Heart.”
Vitale graduated from Seton Hall University with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He also earned a master’s degree in education from William Paterson College and has 32 graduate credits beyond the master’s degree in administration. He was named Honorary Alumnus by the University of Detroit in 1976 and the University of Notre Dame presented him with an honorary degree in 1997. A few of Vitale’s recent prestigious honors: Recognized with the Ronald Reagan Media Award as an outstanding media personality, as presented by the United States Sports Academy;, In 1998, he was awarded the Basketball Hall of Fame’s prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award, the Hall’s highest honor bestowed upon a journalist outside of enshrinement. And in 1999, the Sons of Italy presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award and named him Man of the Year. In 2000, Vitale was recognized with the NABC Cliff Well Appreciation Award for outstanding service to the college basketball coaching community and college basketball in general, and in 2001, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) presented him with the Jake Wade Award, for contributions to college athletics and to an individual who, or an organization, has made a lasting contribution to intercollegiate athletics. Vitale also received the Wayman Tisdale
Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2011.
In addition, he’s been selected for ten halls of fame: National Italian Sports Hall of Fame, the Elmwood Park, N.J. Hall of Fame (his hometown), the Sarasota Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame (inducted in inaugural class of 2001), the Five-Star Basketball Camp Hall of Fame (2003), the University of Detroit Hall of Fame, the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 (he’s a resident of the State) and the East Rutherford, NJ, Hall of Fame (1985), the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2008) and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2008) as well
as the Little League Baseball Hall of Excellence in 2012.
Born June 9, 1939, in East Rutherford, N.J., Vitale and his wife, Lorraine, have two
Daughters, Terri and Sherri, who both attended Notre Dame on tennis scholarships,
And who both graduated with MBAs. The Vitale’s proud involvement with Notre Dame includes the endowment of the Dick Vitale Family Scholarship, presented annually to an Irish undergraduate who participates in Notre Dame sports or activities and does not receive financial aid. Recipients have included the school’s Leprechaun mascot, cheerleaders and band members.