Dick Vitale, college basketball’s top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season — just after the network’s September 1979 launch—following a successful college and professional coaching career. In 2008, he received the sport’s ultimate honor when he was selected as an inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Vitale’s thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate, sometimes controversial—but never boring — style. His “Vitale-isms” have taken on a life of their own. Just a few of his many household phrases: “Awesome, baby!”, “diaper dandy” (freshman star), “all-Windex performer” (ferocious rebounder) and “Maalox time” (the final minutes of a close game).
Vitale called ESPN’s first-ever major NCAA basketball game — Wisconsin at DePaul on Dec. 5, 1979. Since then, he’s called over a thousand games. He has been profiled by a wide array of national magazines, ranging from Sports Illustrated, Sport and The Sporting News to People and Travel & Leisure. He received eight CableACE nominations, and captured awards in 1994 and 1995.
He’s been selected for 14 halls of fame, as well as the NSAA Sportscaster of the Year in 2013.
But Vitale’s roots are in teaching the game he’s loved since a child. Following college, he got a job teaching at Mark Twain Elementary School in Garfield, New Jersey, and coaching junior high school football and basketball. He began coaching at the high school level at Garfield High School, and went on to earn four state sectional championships, two consecutive state championships and 35 consecutive victories during his seven years at his alma mater — East Rutherford, NJ, High School.
He joined Rutgers University for two years in the 1970s as an assistant coach, 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. In 1977, Vitale became athletic director at the university and the next year was named head coach of the NBA's Detroit Pistons, which he coached during the 1978-79 season prior to joining ESPN.
A philanthropist, Vitale is on the board of directors of The V Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer, founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano. For many years he’s awarded five scholarships annually to the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota, Florida.
Vitale has also authored several books, the most recent of which are It’s Awesome Baby! and Dick Vitale’s Mount Rushmores of College Basketball.
Vitale graduated from Seton Hall University with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. He earned a master's degree in education from William Paterson College.