Sports

Dick Vitale’s latest book does more than look at college basketball history

Awesome, Baby!

He’s a diaper dandy, a PTP’er!

That’s a small sample of the catch phrases any college basketball fan knows come from Lakewood Ranch resident Dick Vitale.

And for 40 years, he’s used those phrases — and countless others — while calling college basketball games on ESPN.

Last week marked Vitale’s 40th year at ESPN.

To commemorate his anniversary at the place he began a successful broadcasting tenure in 1979, Vitale also released his latest book.

Titled “Dick Vitale’s Mount Rushmores of College Basketball,” the book goes into the best of the best with lists of four — the four best coaches of all-time, four best players, etc. — just like Mount Rushmore features four U.S. presidents and to represent Vitale’s four decades at ESPN.

Vitale’s selections for best coaches? Bobby Knight, Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.

Vitale’s picks for best college players of all-time? Michael Jordan, Ralph Sampson, Christian Laettner and Patrick Ewing.

But more important than any of his choices in the book, which was done with longtime collaborator Dick Weiss and researcher Howie Schwab, is the cause that Vitale is most passionate about: pediatric cancer research.

Every dollar Vitale makes off the book, he said, goes to Jimmy V Foundation for pediatric cancer research.

“I will beg and I will plead until my last breath to raise as many dollars, because there’s an injustice out there,” Vitale said from New York in a phone interview. “Federal funding for cancer research only gives 4 cents for every dollar to cancer research.”

Vitale’s annual gala is the pinnacle of the fundraising effort that goes on throughout the year, and next May’s gala will see a goal of $4 million — up from the $3.7 million achieved in 2018. The annual goal increases each year, and Vitale said it becomes tougher and tougher to achieve.

“We’re trying to get new blood to add to the people that have (donated),” Vitale said. “If anyone comes to our gala, they are blown away when they see these beautiful young kids.”

The idea to donate all his book proceeds to the V Foundation started with his last book, “It’s Awesome, Baby!” That book was published in 2014.

Vitale also received induction into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame on Tuesday in New York. It’s his 14th Hall of Fame.

“When I started at ESPN, trust me, the word Hall of Fame never entered my mind,” Vitale said.

Vitale’s induction coincided with 11 others for the class, including Bob Costas, Jim Nantz and Mary Carillo.

For a personalized autographed book, visit DickVitaleOnline.com. The book is also available online at Amazon.com or local residents can grab a copy between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Lakewood Ranch locations for Another Broken Egg and First Watch when Vitale is in town.

He’s currently on the road for speaking engagements before calling Saturday’s Gonzaga-North Carolina game.

The book costs $29.99, with proceeds going toward a worthy cause.

“The same treatments over the years have been utilized and we need some new stuff, and they need dollars to make that happen,” Vitale said. “And that’s what I’m specifically doing, trying to get dollars and trying to get awareness.”

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