He's Awesome, Baby!

By staff January 1, 2002

Sarasota's Dick Vitale is everywhere during basketball season-ESPN television, ABC radio, and every magazine and newspaper imaginable. Vitale also puts up big numbers right here at home.

Vitale, 62, first earned fame coaching high school and college basketball in the '60s and '70s. He coached the University of Detroit to a .722 winning percentage until 1977, when he bolted for the pros. Fired after just a year with the NBA Detroit Pistons, he struck it big on a fledgling cable station called ESPN. It's been "awesome, baby" ever since.

"I just got a lucky break in television," Vitale says modestly. "I pinch myself every day."

Vitale uses his fame to help others, with the charity closest to his heart the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota. The annual Dick Vitale Sports Night for the club has raised more than $400,000 to date. Nationally, Vitale serves on the board of the V Foundation, which has raised more than $20 million for cancer research.

Actually, Vitale has a hard time saying no to any worthy cause. He spends a lot of time signing memorabilia that he sends off on request for charity auctions all over the country. "If there is anything I love about being a personality," he says, "it's the smile you can bring to someone's face just by extending a hand."

Vitale has lived in Sarasota with his wife Lorraine for seven years. "Living here in Sarasota is a godsend," he says. "I start my day off by playing a little tennis. Then I go to the Broken Egg on Siesta Key and study my basketball articles. They call me an ambassador for Sarasota there.

"After that I walk on the white sand beach. What a place!"

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