Dick Vitale

Last updated

Dick Vitale
Dick Vitale.jpg
Vitale in 2011
Personal information
Born (1939-06-09) June 9, 1939 (age 83)
Passaic, New Jersey, U.S.
Career information
High school East Rutherford
(East Rutherford, New Jersey)
College Seton Hall
Coaching career1963–1979
Career history
As coach:
1963–1964 Garfield HS
1964–1971 East Rutherford HS
1971–1973 Rutgers (assistant)
1973–1977 Detroit
1978–1979 Detroit Pistons
Career coaching record
NCAA79–29 (.731)
NBA34–60 (.362)
Basketball Hall of Fame
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2008

Richard John Vitale ( /vˈtæl/ ; 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 for his 41-year tenure as a college basketball broadcaster for ESPN. He is known for catchphrases such as "This is awesome, baby!" and "diaper dandy" (outstanding freshman player), as well as his enthusiastic and colorful remarks during games. He has also written nine books, and appeared in several films.


Early life and education

Vitale was born in Passaic, New Jersey, and grew up in Garfield, New Jersey. He moved to East Paterson (now Elmwood Park) in his freshman year of high school. His father, John, was a piece work clothing press operator and had a second job as a security guard. [1] His mother, Mae, worked in a factory as a seamstress and sewed coats until she suffered a stroke. [2]

Vitale graduated from East Rutherford High School, [3] and in 1963, he graduated from Seton Hall University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. He later earned a master's degree in education from Paterson State College.


High school coaching

Vitale took his first job as a coach at an elementary school in Garfield, New Jersey in 1958. 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), where he had a record of 131–47 from 1964 to 1971 and led his teams to two New Jersey state championships. [4]

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 left the Titans and college basketball to coach the Detroit Pistons of the NBA in the 1978–79 Detroit Pistons season, leading them to a 30–52 (.366) record. [5] Vitale was hospitalized with stress related stomach issues during his first season on the bench in Detroit as the team struggled. In his second year, 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 Detroit Pistons season, and with the Pistons off to a 4–8 start, Vitale was fired.

A significant 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, with Vitale in charge of player personnel, entitled to compensation for Carr, demanded McAdoo, whom 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 number 1 pick and Rickey Brown with the number 13 pick) in exchange for Robert Parish and the number 3 pick (Kevin McHale). [6]

Head coaching record


Statistics overview
Detroit Titans (NCAA Division I independent)(1973–1977)
1973–74 Detroit 17–9
1974–75 Detroit 17–9
1975–76 Detroit 19–8
1976–77 Detroit 26–3 NCAA Division I Sweet 16
Detroit:79–29 (.731)
Total:79–29 (.731)


Regular seasonGGames coachedWGames wonLGames lostW–L %Win–loss %
PlayoffsPGPlayoff gamesPWPlayoff winsPLPlayoff lossesPW–L %Playoff win–loss %
Detroit 1978–79 823052.3664th in Central Missed playoffs
Detroit 1979–80 1248.333(fired)


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. [7] 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 Dan Shulman and NBA great Bill Walton. [8]

By the 2004–05 season, Vitale was doing approximately 40 games a year. [9]

Vitale is signed with ESPN through the 2022–23 college basketball season. [10]

In February 2015, ESPN removed Vitale from covering Duke-UNC basketball. He had covered every Duke-UNC game televised by ESPN since 1979. [11]

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.

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, [12] 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 Jim Valvano. [13]

Awards and honors



ESPY Awards

Halls of Fame

Appearances in other media

Video games

Dick Vitale lent his name, voice and likeness to the 1994 Sega Genesis college basketball video game, Dick Vitale's "Awesome, Baby!" College Hoops , developed and sold by Time Warner Interactive and only released in the United States. [17] Later, Vitale and Brad Nessler provided the commentator voices for EA Sports' NCAA Basketball (formerly NCAA March Madness) video game series until its 2010 discontinuation.


In 2004, Vitale released a descriptive autobiography co-written 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.

Product endorsements

Vitale has appeared in commercials for DiGiorno pizza, Oberto beef jerky, the Airborne Athletics basketball training device Dr. Dish, GEICO and Hooters restaurants. Appearing in early 1990s Taco Bell TV ads promoting the 7-layer burrito, Vitale exclaimed, "It's 'Sevendipity,' baby !!

Films and television

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! . He guest starred on The Cosby Show along with friend Jim Valvano as furniture movers in the eighth-season episode The Getaway . Other film appearances have generally been Vitale playing himself and commentating the fictional games occurring in those films.

Film roles

Personal life

Vitale married Lorraine McGrath in 1971. The couple have two daughters, Terri and Sherri, [18] and five grandchildren. [19] He has lived in Lakewood Ranch, Florida in the greater Tampa Bay area since the 1990s and has become a well-known fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lightning, and Rays. [20] He is a Roman Catholic. [21]

In August 2021, Vitale announced that he was undergoing treatment to remove melanoma that had been discovered by doctors. In October of the same year, Vitale also announced that his doctors had diagnosed him with lymphoma which he would seek treatment to combat. [22] In January 2022, ESPN announced Vitale would not commentate any more college basketball games that season.


Vitale has authored fourteen books, including:

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  1. "Dick Vitale Biography (1939–)". www.filmreference.com.
  2. Vitale, Dick (September 6, 2008). "Hall call is simply awesome". ESPN. Archived from the original on September 8, 2008. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
  3. "V-File: Dick Vitale bio". ESPN. November 2004. Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  4. Moran, Malcolm. "Dick Vitale: Frustrated But Still", The New York Times , February 1, 1979. Accessed January 9, 2018. "He won two New Jersey state championships at East Rutherford High School, and had a career record of 131‐47."
  5. "Pistons Coaching Records". NBA.com . Archived from the original on December 2, 2009.
  6. "Dick Vitale and the worst team in Detroit Pistons history". January 20, 2021.
  7. "Vitale's first broadcast".
  8. "Packer vexed at Vitale for doing prep star's game". USA Today. December 4, 2002. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  9. "TV/RADIO: Hoops boosts Vitale's vitality". Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2009.
  10. "Dick Vitale agrees to contract extension with ESPN". ESPN.com. June 9, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  11. "ESPN Has Taken Dick Vitale Off Broadcast Of UNC-Duke Game". February 16, 2015.
  12. "You Said A Mouthful, Dick, Baby". CNN. March 19, 1990. Archived from the original on December 2, 2012. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  13. "Hall call is simply Awesome". Sports.espn.go.com. September 6, 2008. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  14. 40th Sports emmy Award nominations – The Emmys.tv
  15. Lembo, John (August 4, 2012). "Dick Vitale honored by Little League hall induction". Bradenton Herald. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012.
  16. Dick Vitale – National Italian-American Sports HOF
  17. Athletic Supporter (October 1994). "Dick Vitale's Almost-Awesome Hoops" (PDF). GamePro . No. 63. International Data Group. p. 112.
  18. "To honor of Dick Vitale's 80th birthday, here's eight things to know about 'Dickie V'". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  19. "Dick Vitale". Facebook. Archived from the original on February 26, 2022. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  20. Gleeson, Scott. "Dick Vitale, Tampa Bay super fan, revels in city's current pro sports surge". USA TODAY.
  21. Vitale, Dick [@DickieV] (December 5, 2021). "Chemotherapy was tough this weekend & but I have a streak of over 25 years of receiving in our Catholic Religion communion weekly .A tip u can call ur parish & they will serve your needs . Deacon Jack of our Lady of Angels LWR said Mass & gave us Communion. 🙏🙏🙏 mean so much " (Tweet). Retrieved December 8, 2021 via Twitter.
  22. Brady, W. G. (October 18, 2021). "Legendary college basketball announcer Dick Vitale makes sad announcement". Detroit Sports Nation. Retrieved October 19, 2021.