His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate, sometimes controversial - but never boring- style.
Vitale teamed with Jim Simpson to call ESPN's first-ever NCAA basketball game - Wisconsin at DePaul on Dec. 5, 1979 (a 90-77 DePaul win). Since then, he's called close to a thousand games, including NBA contests for ESPN during the 1983 and '84 seasons.
But Vitale's talents and influence extend way, way beyond just game analyst. He provides commentary on a variety of topics in his "Dick Vitale's Fast Break" segment which airs Wednesday evenings during the college basketball season on SportsCenter, and serves as a college basketball analyst for ESPN Radio. He has been a college basketball analyst for ABC Sports since 1988, and has also covered the NBA Finals and the 1992 Summer Olympics for ABC Radio. His weekly ESPN.com column is one of the web site's most popular features.
Also, he's a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine, and his annual college basketball yearbook -- Dick Vitale's College Basketball Magazine -- is generally recognized as the sport's best. He's received eight CableACE nominations as top analyst, and captured the award in 1995. And of course he has his own web site - www.dickvitale.com.
Vitale is also a columnist for Basketball Times and Eastern Basketball, has served as a guest columnist for USA Today since 1991, and has been a featured guest on virtually every radio station across the nation. He's also been profiled by a wide array of national magazines, ranging from Sports Illustrated, Sport and The Sporting News to People, Playboy and Travel & Leisure.
"I'm living the American dream," Vitale once said. "I learned from my mom and dad, who didn't have a formal education, but had doctorates of love. They told me that if you gave 110 percent all the time, a lot of beautiful things will happen. I may not always be right, but no one can ever accuse me of not having a genuine love and passion for whatever I do. And ESPN has been grateful enough to recognize this."
And while his knowledge, preparation and enthusiasm are unparalleled, his "Vitale-isms" have unwittingly taken on a life of their own. Just a few of his many household phrases: "Awesome, Baby!," "Get a TO, Baby!" (call a timeout), "PTP'er" (prime-time player), "M & M'er" (a mismatch), "Rolls Roycer" (a flat out superstar), "diaper dandy" (freshman star), "All-Thomas Edison" (a creative and innovative player), "All-Windex Performer" (ferocious rebounder) and "Maalox time" (the final minutes of a close game).
But Vitale's roots are in teaching the game he's loved since a child. Following college, he began coaching at the high school level (while also teaching sixth grade), earning five state sectional championships, two consecutive state championships, and 35 consecutive victories during his seven years at East Rutherford, N. J., High School (1964-70). He then joined Rutgers University for two years (1970-72) as an assistant coach, helping to recruit Phil Sellers and Mike Dabney, two cornerstones on an eventual NCAA Final Four team (1976).
Vitale then coached at the University of Detroit (1973-77), compiling a winning percentage of .722 (78-30), which included a 21-game winning streak during the 1976-77 season when the team participated in the NCAA Tournament. Included in the streak was a victory in Milwaukee over Al McGuire's eventual national champion Marquette team. In April 1977, Vitale was named Athletic Director at Detroit and later that year was named the United Fund's Detroit Man of the Year. In May 1978, he was named head coach of the NBA's Detroit Pistons, which he coached during the 1978-79 season prior to joining ESPN.
The always-energetic Vitale is a favorite endorser among a wide array of major corporations. He's also one of the nation's most requested public speakers, providing motivational speeches to numerous leading corporations and organizations across the U.S. In 1987, he signed an exclusive contract with the Washington Speakers Bureau. He's also a regular speaker with Peter Lowe's Success Seminar, which regularly attracts crowds of up to 20,000 to see him speak along with President George Bush, Barbara Bush, Elizabeth Dole, Gen. Colin Powell, William Bennett, Christopher Reeves and Larry King, among others.
Vitale is also quite the philanthropist. For many years he's awarded five scholarships annually to the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota (Fla.). His involvement with the organization was highlighted in April 1999 with the "Dick Vitale Sports Night," a sports memorabilia charity auction which raised thousands of dollars. In April 2000, in recognition of Vitale's support for the Boys and Girls Club, it was announced that when construction of a planned new building at the club is completed, it will be named The Dick Vitale Physical Education and Health Training Center.
He's on the Board of Directors of The V Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer and founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano (and an organization with has since raised millions of dollars).
Vitale's also a member of advisory boards for the Harlem Globetrotters and the Henry Iba Citizen Awards. Additionally, he participates on selection committees for both the Naismith and Wooden Awards and is a member of the Associated Press voting panel for the Top-25.
And Vitale is a popular figure even outside of sports television. He's made cameo appearances in several movies as himself: The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad! (1988, starring Leslie Nielsen), Hoop Dreams (1994 award-winning documentary), Blue Chips (1994, Nick Nolte), The Sixth Man (1997, Marlon Wayans and Kadeem Hardison), He Got Game (1998, Denzel Washington and Ray Allen), and Love and Basketball (2000). In 1995's Jury Duty with Pauly Shore and Tia Carrere, he played "Hal Gibson." And in February 1992, he teamed with Jim Valvano to play furniture movers ("V&V Movers") on the hit series The Cosby Show.
He was even the subject of a David Letterman Top-10 list - "Top Ten Signs Dick Vitale Is Nuts!" -- in March 1996 (when the Final Four was in New York City) - where he even read the list on the show (a couple of gems: "I've referred to everything as baby, except an actual baby" and "I keep repainting the roof of my house to match Dennis Rodman's hair"). In March 1999, HBO's acclaimed Real Sports profiled Vitale.
Vitale's also authored six books. In 1988, Simon & Schuster published Vitale, an autobiographical bestseller with Curry Kirkpatrick, which was issued in paperback version by Pocket Books in 1989. In 1991, Time Out Baby!, his second book was published. The book, written with Dick Weiss, chronicled the 1990-91 season. In 1993 his third book, Tourney Time, was published. In 1994, Dickie V's Top 40, his fourth book, was published and he worked on his third movie, Jury Duty. In September 1995, he co-wrote a fifth book, also written with Weiss, called Holding Court: Reflections on the Game I Love. His sixth book, also with Weiss, was released in 1999 - Campus Chaos: Why the Game I Love is Breaking My Heart. He also has popular home videos distributed by ESPN Video -- Time Out Baby! Dick Vitale's All?Time College Hoops Superstars and Dick Vitale's Dreamtime, Baby.
ESPN has televised two nationally acclaimed Vitale specials -- "The Game of Life," which first aired December 1991 and "Game Plan For Life," which first aired December 1994. Both were motivational speeches Vitale delivered to high school players at basketball camps. ESPN's Jock Jams CD - of which Vitale is a focal part - is now multi-platinum after selling more than six million copies. His popular merchandise line distributed through Tandem Enterprises includes autographed basketballs, shirts and hats.
Vitale graduated from Seton Hall University with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He also earned a master's degree in education from William Paterson College and has 32 graduate credits beyond the master's degree in administration.
Recognition for his achievements and contributions to a wide array of areas are quite numerous. He was named Honorary Alumnus by the University of Detroit in 1976, and voted Man of the Year by the Detroit Athletic Club in 1977. In 1978, he was presented with the Greater Detroit Community Award by the Hartford Insurance Company.
In addition, Basketball Times named Vitale one of the sport's Five Most Influential Personalities of 1983, less than four years after entering the TV business). He was inducted into the East Rutherford, N.J., Hall of Fame in 1985 and, in 1988, was presented with an Honorary Citizens Award by Father Flanagan of Boystown. In 1989, Vitale was recognized by his peers as the American Sportscasters Association "Sports Personality of the Year," while the NIT Metropolitan Media did the same in 1991. In 1995, he was honored by Magic Johnson's Roundball Classic for his outstanding contribution to youth and also received the John Domino Award for Professional Service from St. Bonaventure University and the Empire Sports Network. He also received the Phil Rizzuto "Scooter Award" as the most caring broadcaster in the New York City metropolitan area, as well as the Black Coaches Association (BCA) honor award for dedication to youth. In 1996, he was named Man of the Year by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County (N.Y.) and has also been feted by roasts at Seton Hall, the University of Detroit and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A few of Vitale's recent prestigious honors: The University of Notre Dame presented him with a honorary degree in 1997, while he was also recognized with the Ronald Reagan Media Award as an outstanding media personality, as presented by the United States Sports Academy. In 1998, he was awarded the Basketball Hall of Fame's prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award, the Hall's highest honor bestowed upon a journalist outside of enshrinement. And in April 1999, the Sons of Italy honored him as Man of the Year in presenting him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2000, Vitale was recognized with the NABC Cliff Wells Appreciation Award for outstanding service to the college basketball coaching community and college basketball in general.
In addition, he's been inducted into five halls of fame: the Elmwood Park, N.J., Hall of Fame (his hometown), the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, the University of Detroit Hall of Fame, and in 1996, the Florida Sports Hall of Fame (he's a resident of the state).
Born June 9, 1939, in East Rutherford, N.J., Vitale and his wife, Lorraine, have two daughters, Terri and Sherri, who both attended Notre Dame on tennis scholarships, and who both graduated with MBAs. The Vitale's proud involvement with Notre Dame includes the endowment of the Dick Vitale Family Scholarship, presented annually to an Irish undergraduate who participates in Notre Dame sports or activities and does not receive financial aid. Recipients have included the school's Leprechaun mascot, cheerleaders and band members.