Dick Vitale

Dick Vitale
Dick Vitale
Current position
Team Seton Hall
Biographical details
Born June 9, 1939 (1939-06-09) (age 72)
Place of birth Passaic, New Jersey
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Garfield HS
East Rutherford HS
Rutgers *
U. of Detroit
Detroit Pistons
* Denotes assistant
Head coaching record
Overall NCAA: 78-30
NBA: 34-60
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2008

Richard J. "Dick" Vitale (pronounced /vaɪˈtæl/; born June 9, 1939), also known as "Dickie V", is an American basketball sportscaster. A former head coach in the college and professional ranks, he is well-known as a college basketball broadcaster and for the enthusiastic and colorful remarks he makes during games. He is known for his catchphrases such as "baby" and "diaper dandy" (outstanding freshman player). He has authored seven books and appeared in several movies.



High school coaching

Vitale took his first job as a coach at an elementary school in Garfield, New Jersey in 1959. Eventually he moved up to the high school level to become head coach at Garfield High School for one season, and then at East Rutherford High School (his alma mater).

College coaching

In 1971, Vitale moved to Rutgers University as an assistant coach under head coach Dick Lloyd. After two seasons there, he was hired in 1973 by the University of Detroit to become its head coach. Vitale took Detroit to the 32-team NCAA tournament in 1977. Vitale had a 78-30 record during his tenure at Detroit, which included a 21-game winning streak during the 1977 season. During that streak the Titans defeated the eventual champion Marquette on the road in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Following the 1977 season, his fourth as Detroit head coach, Vitale was named the university's athletic director.

NBA coaching

Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons of the NBA for the 1978-79 season, leading them to a 30-52 (.366) record.[1] On Nov. 8, 1979, Pistons owner Bill Davidson came to Vitale's house and told him that the Pistons were making a coaching change. It was twelve games into 1979-80 season, after the Pistons struggled to a 4-8 start. The primary reason for Vitale's downfall with the Pistons was the maneuver that brought Bob McAdoo to Detroit. M.L. Carr’s decision to sign with Boston as a free agent in 1979 spawned a transaction in which the Pistons, entitled to compensation for Carr, demanded Bob McAdoo, who the Celtics were looking to unload due to injuries. The Pistons sent two 1980 first-round draft picks (in addition to Carr) to the Celtics in exchange for McAdoo in a combination free agent signing/trade. The Pistons would have the worst season in franchise history in 1979-80, and their pick would become the first overall pick in the 1980 draft. Boston then traded the two picks to the Warriors (who selected Joe Barry Carroll with the #1 pick and Rickey Brown with the #13 pick) in exchange for Robert Parish and the #3 pick (Kevin McHale).


Following his departure as coach of the Detroit Pistons, Scotty Connal gave Vitale his first TV opportunity at the then fledgling ESPN cable network. His first reaction to the job of broadcaster was "Absolutely no way. I know nothing about TV. I want to get back to where I belong and my spirit belongs." He was reluctant to accept the position but his wife Lorraine told him to "go on TV and have some fun", so Vitale accepted on a temporary basis until another coaching job became available. He called ESPN's first college basketball game on December 5, 1979, when DePaul defeated Wisconsin 90–77.[2] His first play-by-play partner was Joe Boyle.

Vitale was not a natural at first for broadcasting. He missed his first-ever production meeting when he was walking the streets of Chicago. Also, he would talk while the producers were talking to him through his earpiece, during commercials, and while the play-by-play man was talking. Vitale himself was not sure if broadcasting would fit him. Connal, who had hired him told him, "You have a quality we can't teach." Vitale did not understand this until many people wanted his autograph at the 1983 Final Four. He credits a lot of his success to working with Jim Simpson at the beginning of his career.

In 1985, after the American Broadcasting Company acquired ESPN, Vitale also began doing broadcasts on the ABC network.

In 1999, Vitale was featured in a series of thirty-second promo shorts for "Hoops Malone". The shorts, which aired in heavy rotation on ESPN, were presented as a sitcom featuring Vitale, George Gervin and others, including a puppet called "O'Hoolix". ESPN promoted "Hoops" with banners and other marketing premiums, with the idea of generating buzz about the show, but no actual episodes were ever produced. Though this led to an offer for Vitale to do an actual sitcom, he turned down the opportunity.

In December 2002, Vitale called a St. Vincent – St. Mary'sOak Hill Academy prep game, featuring then high school phenom LeBron James. He announced the game with Brad Nessler and NBA great Bill Walton.[3]

By the 2004-05 season, Vitale was doing approximately 40 games a year.[4]

In November 2006, Vitale signed a contract extension with ESPN through the 2012–13 college basketball year. The 2008–09 season was his 30th with the ESPN network.

Vitale was recruited to do color in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament by CBS but ESPN would not allow it. However, ESPN's analysts Jay Bilas and Len Elmore were allowed to provide color for CBS's tournament coverage, teaming with play-by-play announcers Dick Enberg and Gus Johnson.

Vitale is a voter on the AP Top 25 men's basketball polls, the annual Naismith Award and the John Wooden Award.

On September 5, 2008 Vitale was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor to the sport, after falling just short of induction the previous year.

Vitale called his first NBA game on television since the 1984 NBA playoffs, along with Dan Shulman, on January 7, 2009 when the Miami Heat played the Denver Nuggets as ESPN swapped its NBA and NCAA crews. During ESPN's first incarnation covering the NBA, he regularly covered games.

Broadcasting partners

As of 2009, Vitale had called close to a thousand games. Vitale, a color commentator, is primarily paired with play-by-play announcers Mike Patrick, primarily those in the ACC games; and Dan Shulman for Saturday Primetime and other non-ACC games. During the postseason, he appears as an in-studio analyst with host Rece Davis and fellow analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis, and Bob Knight. Previously, he has been paired with Keith Jackson, Roger Twibell, and Brent Musburger for ABC as well as Jim Simpson, Tim Brando,[5] Mike Tirico, and Brad Nessler. He worked in the studio with Bob Ley, John Saunders, Mike Tirico, and Chris Fowler as well as the late Jim Valvano.[6]

Personal life

Vitale was born in Passaic, New Jersey. His father, John, was a security guard and clothing press operator.[7] His mom, Mae, worked in a factory as a seamstress and sewed coats until she suffered a stroke.[8] In kindergarten, Vitale lost the vision in his left eye owing to an accident with a pencil.

Vitale graduated from Seton Hall University in 1963 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He later earned a master's degree in education from what is now William Paterson University. He was close friends with Jim Valvano, also known as "Jimmy V", and continues to spearhead fundraising activities for the V Foundation for Cancer Research in his honor. Vitale is a Tampa Bay Rays season ticket holder and fan and is frequently spotted by fans sitting in the first row behind home plate at Tropicana Field. He is a native of East Paterson, New Jersey, now Elmwood Park, New Jersey. Vitale is now a resident of Lakewood Ranch, Florida, which is located near Bradenton, Florida. He appears once a week on Mike and Mike in the Morning, often mentioning The Broken Egg, a breakfast/brunch restaurant in Siesta Key and Lakewood Ranch.

On December 18, 2007, Vitale was diagnosed with lesions on his vocal chords. He underwent successful surgery and returned to announcing on February 6, calling the Duke-North Carolina game on ESPN, often exclaiming, "It's Serendipity, baby!" when things come together. Before this, he had never missed a game due to illness.

Dick Vitale is married and has two daughters, both of whom attended the University of Notre Dame and played varsity tennis. He is frequently seen at Notre Dame football games and is an avid supporter of the school.

In popular culture

Vitale lent his name and voice to the 1994 Sega Genesis game, Dick Vitale's "Awesome Baby" College Hoops. Vitale and Nessler also provide the commentator voices for EA Sports' NCAA Basketball (formerly NCAA March Madness) video game series. In 2004, Vitale released a descriptive autobiography cowritten with Dick Weiss entitled Living a Dream. The book has several thoughts and comments on his days with the Pistons and ESPN, and memories of former NC State basketball Coach Jim Valvano. In 1988, Vitale had a cameo appearance as a baseball color commentator, sharing the crowded broadcast booth with Curt Gowdy, Jim Palmer, Dick Enberg, Mel Allen, Tim McCarver and Joyce Brothers in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. Vitale currently stars in commercials for DiGiorno pizza and Hooters restaurants. He guest starred on The Cosby Show along with friend Jim Valvano as furniture movers in the eighth season episode The Getaway. Dick Vitale is also the main spokesperson for Airborne Athletics Dr. Dish basketball training machine (http://www.drdishbasketball.com).


Vitale has authored nine books:

  • "Dickie V's ABCs and 1-2-3s", Ascend Books (October 2010)
  • "Living a Dream: Reflections on 25 Years Sitting in the Best Seat", Champaign, IL Sports Publishing LLC (January 1, 2003)
  • "Dick Vitale's Fabulous 50 Players and Moments in College Basketball: From the Best Seat in the House During My 30 Years at ESPN", Ascend Books (October 6, 2008)
  • "Time Out Baby!", Berkley (December 1, 1992)
  • "Vitale", Simon and Schuster; 1st Edition edition (1988)
  • "Dickie V's Top 40 All-Everything Teams", Masters Press (June 1994)
  • "Tourney Time: It's Awesome Baby!", Masters Press, (December 1993)
  • "Holding Court: Reflections on the Game I Love", Masters Press (November 1995)
  • "Campus Chaos: Why the Game I Love is Breaking My Heart", Sideline Sports Publishing (December 1999)


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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