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To honor of Dick Vitale’s 80th birthday, here’s eight things to know about ‘Dickie V’

Indefatigable college hoops ambassador and Tampa Bay sports fan Dick Vitale turns 80 on Sunday

For a guy with trademark long-windedness, puffing out 80 birthday candles should be...well...a piece of cake. Yep, Dick Vitale ― most ebullient sports personality alive ― officially becomes an octogenarian Sunday, with no sign of slowing down.

“I am the youngest 80 in the world,” Vitale said, a long-time resident of Lakewood Ranch outside Bradenton, in a text message earlier this week. “Will match my energy and enthusiasm with any 25-year-old.” In honor of his eight decades on Earth, we offer eight Vitalian facts:

1. A Titan in coaching

Dick Vitale's 1976-77 University of Detroit squad won 21 consecutive games. [Detroit Mercy Athletic Communications].

Woefully unappreciated as a coach, Vitale was 78-30 in four seasons at the University of Detroit. The 1976-77 Titans won 21 consecutive games including a 64-63 triumph over eventual national champ Marquette (coached by Al McGuire) in Milwaukee. The Titans lost their very next game, 95-88 at Duquesne.

2. Jersey boy

Before coaching in college at the University of Detroit, Dick Vitale led his prep alma mater to a pair of state titles. [Detroit Mercy Athletic Communications]

To belabor the point on his coaching acumen, Vitale also led East Rutherford (N.J.) High ― his alma mater ― to consecutive Group I state titles in 1970 and ’71.

3. Misfiring Piston

The lone blemish on Vitale’s coaching resume was, of course, his 94-game stint (34-60 record) as coach of the Detroit Pistons in the late 1970s. The date of his Pistons debut provided a grim omen ― Friday, Oct. 13, 1978.

4. Family guy

Television basketball analyst Dick Vitale, right, watches from court side seats with his wife Lorraine during the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Golden State Warriors in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. The Warriors won 130-114. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Both of his daughters, Terri and Sherri, live within a five-minute drive of of the Lakewood Ranch house he shares with wife Lorraine, whom he married in 1971. Both daughters are former Notre Dame tennis players married to former Notre Dame athletes.

5. A star is born, baby

In this April 3, 2017, file photo, ESPN's Dick Vitale stands with North Carolina fans before the team's championship game against Gonzaga in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

His first on-air use of hyperbole may have occurred when he referred to fleet Wisconsin guard Wes Matthews as the “Wisconsin Wizard” at the outset of his first college hoops broadcast on Dec. 5, 1979. Vitale, fired less than a month before as Pistons coach, teamed with Joe Boyle to call 10th-ranked DePaul’s home game against the Badgers.

6. Yo, Dickie

Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the script, directed and played in the sixth episode of Rocky's saga "Rocky Balboa." (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

His favorite movie is Rocky.

7. He’s lived a life that’s full

Dick Vitale's favorite song? "My Way" by fellow New Jersey native Frank Sinatra. (AP Photo)

His favorite song is Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

8. The mission of his life

Dick Vitale stands a group of pediatric cancer survivors at his annual fundraising gala in May. This year's gala raised $4.3 million for pediatric cancer research. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]

Vitale’s indefatigable, well-chronicled quest to destroy pediatric cancer has resulted in 14 celebrity-studded fundraising “galas” in Sarasota. The latest, held in May, raised more than $4.3 million for pediatric cancer research, according to the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls


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