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
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
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
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
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
His favorite movie is Rocky.
7. He’s lived a life that’s full
His favorite song is Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
8. The mission of his life
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 email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls