Detroit Mercy to name court after Vitale
I am truly overwhelmed.
Are you kidding me, are you serious? To think of having the court named after me at the University of Detroit Mercy just blows me away. I was only there for five years, and to have such an honor floors me.
I am fortunate enough to be in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame. I am also proud to be a member of the University of Detroit Hall of Fame. This latest honor is just sensational. To think that my grandchildren and generations of family members will see my name there -- Dick Vitale Court -- leaves me overwhelmed.
I cannot wait to be there in Titan Territory when Detroit hosts St. John's on December 5. It will be a night I truly treasure, and the tears will be flowing from my eyes. I am getting emotional just thinking about it.
I have been so blessed with the honors I have received over the years. There have been so many people that have been vital to me over all of these seasons in the sport of basketball.
Let me take you through a little journey at the University of Detroit. I had been an assistant coach at Rutgers when I was hired as the head coach of the Titans in 1973. It was shock city for me and for a lot of people in the Motor City, baby! I was first introduced in downtown Detroit at a meeting of all of the sports teams. The Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, University of Detroit -- they all had representatives get up and speak about their teams.
I was going to be introduced at this function by a well-known local radio personality named Vince Doyle. He called me, "Vinny Vi-toll-e." The sports celebrities were all sitting there and laughing!
I was simply in awe being in attendance with guys I followed for years.
Then I was welcomed to the world of the media by a guy named Al Ackerman. He was a tough, hard-nosed guy who worked at the ABC station in Detroit. I was warned about him, but I didn't think he would be that tough on my first day. He asked me how I felt to be where I did not belong! Wow, I did not know what to say.
As it turned out, the best answer was to go out and recruit some quality players who were so vital in my career.Those kids had heart and guts. I look back on our first big win, a victory over an outstanding Michigan team and their star, Campanella Russell, at home.
Titan territory was roaring big time!
I think about the wins that led to our appearance in the NCAA tournament my final season there. It changed my career.
I remember facing the Wolverines in the big dance, in a game at Lexington, Ky. It was the last game I coached at Detroit, and it changed my life because I met a gentleman named Scotty Connal there. He was an executive with NBC, which broadcasted the game with Curt Gowdy and John Wooden calling the action.
Having a game on TV was a very big deal for us. We had won 21 straight games that year, including a victory over the eventual champion, Marquette, who was coached by my coaching idol at the time, Al McGuire. We lost a heartbreaker to Johnny Orr's club that day, a tough, tough loss as we fell just short of making it to the final 16. We lost in the last minute. I have often said that we took so much out of Michigan emotionally that it led them to being upset by UNC-Charlotte just 36 hours later.
It was quite a journey, though. I remember Jimmy Valvano once telling me that you don't mess with happiness. I did that when I ran to the pros. I went for the dollars of the NBA, becoming the coach of the Pistons.
I will always treasure those years with the Titans. Without those years, I would have never made it to ESPN and had so many special things occur in my life. Connal remembered me and later asked me to do the first game on ESPN, between Wisconsin and DePaul. The rest, as they say, is history.
This also means I am in the last quarter of my life. I am just trying to make it the best quarter. I hope I can take it to triple OT. This honor belongs to the U. of D. family, but also to the people at ESPN. They have meant so much to me. This comes because of what has transpired during my career at ESPN as well. Thank you, and I love you all.
I also want to thank those critics of mine, people who may not like my style. You have motivated me, forced my passion to come out and made me work as hard as possible. I always try to be the best I can be.
I also want to thank my mom and dad up in heaven. They instilled in me the belief to never hear the word "can't".
I am living a dream, baby!
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