June 9, 1939|
Passaic, New Jersey
|Alma mater||Seton Hall|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1964–1971||East Rutherford HS|
|Head coaching record|
Basketball Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 2008
College Basketball Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 2008
Richard John Vitale (//; 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 "this is awesome 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 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 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 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.
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 (NCAA Division I independent) (1973–1977)|
|1976–77||Detroit||26–3||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|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 2020-21 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.
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 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.
2016 New Jersey Hall of Fame inductee.
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.
- The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) - Baseball Announcer #1
- Blue Chips (1994) - Himself
- Jury Duty (1995) - Hal Gibson
- The Sixth Man (1997) - Himself
- He Got Game (1998) - Himself
- Love & Basketball (2000) - Himself
- Complete Guide to Guys (2005) - Himself
- Home of the Giants (2007) - 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)
- "Dick Vitale Biography (1939–)".
- Vitale, Dick (September 6, 2008). "Hall call is simply awesome". ESPN.
- 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."
- "Pistons Coaching Records". Archived from the original on 2009-12-02.
- "Vitale's first broadcast".
- "Packer vexed at Vitale for doing prep star's game". USA Today. December 4, 2002. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- "TV/RADIO: Hoops boosts Vitale's vitality".
- "Dick Vitale agrees to contract extension with ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- "Dick Vitale: 'I will absolutely miss' calling Duke-UNC". News & Observer. 2015-02-16. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
- "You Said A Mouthful, Dick, Baby". CNN. March 19, 1990. Archived from the original on December 2, 2012. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- "Hall call is simply Awesome". Sports.espn.go.com. 2008-09-06. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- Lembo, John (August 4, 2012). "Dick Vitale honored by Little League hall induction". Bradenton Herald. Archived from the original on 2012-08-05.