Richard John "Dick" Vitale (/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 for ESPN. He is known for catchphrases such as "baby" and "diaper dandy" (outstanding freshman player), as well as enthusiastic and colorful remarks he makes during games, and has authored nine books and appeared in several movies.
Vitale was born in Passaic, New Jersey and grew up in East Rutherford, New Jersey. His father, John, was a piece work clothing press operator and had a second job as a security guard. His mom, Mae, worked in a factory as a seamstress and sewed coats until she suffered a stroke. In kindergarten, Vitale lost the vision in his left eye due to an accident with a pencil.
Vitale graduated from East Rutherford High School and 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.
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).
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.
Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons of the NBA for the 1978–79 season, leading them to a 30–52 (.366) record. On November 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 the 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).
Head coaching record
|Detroit Titans (Independent) (1973–1977)|
|1976–77||Detroit||26–3||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
National champion Postseason invitational champion
|Regular season||G||Games coached||W||Games won||L||Games lost||W–L %||Win-loss %|
|Post season||PG||Playoff games||PW||Playoff wins||PL||Playoff losses||PW–L %||Playoff win-loss %|
|Detroit||1978–79||82||30||52||.366||4th in Central||—||—||—||—||Missed Playoffs|
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. 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's–Oak Hill Academy prep game, featuring then high school phenom LeBron James. He announced the game with Brad Nessler and NBA great Bill Walton.
By the 2004–05 season, Vitale was doing approximately 40 games a year.
Vitale is signed with ESPN through the 2018-19 college basketball season. 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. However, this is slightly misleading as Elmore continues to call games for both CBS and ESPN during the college basketball season; in Bilas' case he was loaned to CBS for the tournament only in 2003 and from 2005-2010.
In February 2015, ESPN removed Vitale from covering Duke-UNC basketball. He had covered every Duke-UNC game televised by ESPN since 1979.
Vitale is a voter on the AP Top 25 men's basketball polls, the annual Naismith Award and the John Wooden Award.
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.
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, Mike Tirico, Dave O'Brien, Sean McDonough and Brad Nessler. He worked in the studio with Bob Ley, John Saunders, Tirico, and Chris Fowler as well as the late Jim Valvano.
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.
In 2011 the University of Detroit named their basketball court in his honor.
On August 18, 2012, he was inducted into the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence.
Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
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.
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 Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rays season ticket holder and fan and is frequently spotted by baseball fans sitting in the first row behind home plate at Tropicana Field.
On December 18, 2007, Vitale was diagnosed with lesions on his vocal cords. 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.
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 Another Broken Egg or First Watch, breakfast/brunch restaurants in Lakewood Ranch.
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, Oberto beef jerky, 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. He also made an appearance in the movie Love and Basketball as himself.
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 (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)
- "Getting a W in the Game of Life: Using my T.E.A.M. Model to Motivate, Elevate, and Be Great" (Oct. 2012)