DETROIT -- Dick Vitale, ESPN broadcaster, college basketball ambassador and former Titan head coach and athletic director, will be honored in December when the University of Detroit Mercy athletics department renames its basketball court at Calihan Hall in his honor. Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Hall will be dedicated in conjunction with a nationally-televised event against Big EAST foe St. John's on December 5, 2011 on ESPN2.
Vitale will be celebrating his 32nd anniversary of calling games for ESPN at the event. Vitale sat courtside for 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.
"What Dick has done for the game of college basketball is nothing short of remarkable, and it is only fitting that we honor him in such a special way – given his career started right here at U of D as a head coach," UDM Director of Athletics Keri Gaither said. "Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Hall will serve as a perpetual and lasting tribute to not only Dick's time at Detroit but also his significant contributions to the sport over several decades."
"When Keri called me and told me they were going to name the court after me at Calihan Hall, I was absolutely taken," Vitale said. "I can't tell you how much this means to me. It should be a special, special moment. It will probably move me to tears. To all the people that made this happen, you're awesome, baby!"
Vitale is best-known for his enthusiastic, passionate, sometimes controversial - but never boring - style. But his passion extends beyond the hardwood as he is quite the philanthropist. His work with The V Foundation, which was founded in 1993 by ESPN and his late friend Jim Valvano, has helped raise millions of dollars towards finding a cure for cancer. He's also involved with numerous organizations in the Sarasota, Fla. area. The Dec. 5 tip against St. John's comes during V Week on ESPN, which raised $1.2 million last year.
Vitale 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. He was inducted into the Titan Hall of Fame in 1993.
The Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Hall project will feature a brand new, state-of-the-art hardwood floor for the home of the Detroit Titans men's and women's basketball teams. Fund-raising for the project will include several other key improvements to the facility, including men's basketball "Phase II" renovations, which began with new offices and upgraded locker room accommodations. Construction is underway inside Calihan Hall in preparation for the upcoming season.
Presale tickets for this game are available through The Detroit Titan ticket office at 313-993-1700. Prices are $20 for reserved floor seats and $10 for upper/general admission. A portion of the ticket sales from this game will be donated to The V Foundation.