Dick Vitale Gala attracts big names, raises big funds for cancer research

Bowden, Calhoun, Self headline cancer-research benefit

adell@bradenton.comMay 17, 2013 

SARASOTA -- Tears will flow, laughter will erupt, and millions of dollars will be headed in the right direction.

Dick Vitale will host his gala tonight at the Ritz-Carlton, and the most renowned college basketball announcer hopes to register a slam dunk in announcing the event has raised more than $10 million since its inception eight years ago.

The money raised by Lakewood Ranch's most famous citizen goes to pediatric cancer research under the Jimmy V Foundation named in honor of Jim Valvano, the N.C. State basketball coach who died in 1993 from cancer.

The stars will shine brightly, and once again the Sarasota-Manatee area will become the capital of the sports world with its list of famous celebrities.

The event's three honored guests are college hall of fame coaches Bobby Bowden and Jim Calhoun and current University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, who this week signed the top-rated high school prospect in North America in Toronto's Andrew Wiggins.

Bowden and Calhoun are cancer survivors who took nondescript programs and turned them into national powerhouses. They are both retired, but their names draw huge crowds wherever they go.

Bowden had an incredible run of more than 30 years when he made Florida State a perennial football power and won two national titles. Calhoun won three national championships for a University of Connecticut men's basketball program that had been mired in mediocrity before his arrival.

Vitale has a few special guests planned, too.

He will have Michigan State junior forward Adreian Payne and his friend, 7-year-old Lacey Holsworth, in attendance. Holsworth has

cancer and is scheduled to have a bone-marrow transplant soon. She has become close with Payne over the past year and met Vitale before the Indiana-Michigan State game in February.

"She just got clearance to join us," Vitale said. "I guarantee there won't be a dry eye in the place."

The guest includes a who's who from the basketball world. Joining Calhoun and Self will be current college coaches Steve Alford (UCLA), Mike Brey (Notre Dame), John Calipari (Kentucky), Tom Crean (Indiana), Billy Donovan (Florida), Joe Dooley (FGCU), Andy Enfield (USC, former FGCU), Mike Gottfried (NC State), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Jim Larranaga (Miami), Kevin Ollie (Connecticut) and Jay Wright (Villanova).

Local guests include USF head football coach Willie Taggart, Manatee head football coach Joe Kinnan, Peter Warrick, Tyrone Williams, former NBA ref Bob Delaney, Nick Bollettieri and Todd Johnson.

Others expected to be there include Nick Anderson (former Orlando Magic player), Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay Lightning head coach), Warrick Dunn (former FSU, Tampa Bay Bucs and Atlanta Falcons), Jimbo Fisher (FSU head football coach), Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Bucs running back), Leslie Visser (ESPN), Dereck Whittenburg (star of N.C. State's national title team under Valvano).

"It's going to be a great night for a great cause," Vitale said. "We are honoring three of the greatest coaches of all time, including Bobby and Jim, who battled cancer the way they coached. Our goal is to announce we broke the $10 million mark for fundraising. It's something I didn't think would happen when started this eight years ago in my home."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report

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