1996 – Dick Vitale

Dick Vitale is ESPN’s top college basketball authority. He is always enthusiastic and sometimes controversial, but he is never boring. Some of his most well-known hallmarks are the “Vitale-isms,” spawning such notable phrases as “PTP’er,” “Get a TO, Baby,” and “Diaper Dandy.” Dick started out coaching high school basketball at East Rutherford, N.J. High School from 1964-70. During that time, his team won five state sectional championships, two consecutive state championships, and 35 straight victories. Dick moved on to become an assistant coach at Rutgers for two years, where he was instrumental in recruiting Phil Sellers and Mike Dabney, the two cornerstones of a 1976 NCAA Final Four team.

From 1973-78, Vitale coached at the University of Detroit, compiling a .722 winning percentage, including a 21-game winning streak in the 1976-77 season. In the spring of 1977, Vitale was named Athletic Director at Detroit. Dick went on to become the head coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons in May 1978, compiling an impressive record in little more than one season.

During the 1979-80 season, Vitale started his successful on-air calling as the top college basketball analyst for ESPN. Dick had segments on both television and radio, including “Dick Vitale’s Fast Break” commentary airing on SportsCenter. Vitale began providing a weekly column on the popular ESPNET SportsZone on the Internet and currently has his only college basketball page on ESPN’s website. Dick has contributed to ABC Sports, while also having covered the NBA Finals and the Olympics for ABC radio. In 1995, Vitale captured a CableACE Award as the top basketball analyst.

For many years, Dick has awarded five scholarship to the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota (Fla.). In honor of his involvement with the Boys and Girls Club, they named their new building the Vitale Physical Education and Health Training Center. Dick has been presented the Honorary Citizens Award by Father Flanagan of Boystown. He has been honored by Magic Johnson’s Roundball Classic and the Black Coaches Association for his contribution to youth. Vitale has received the John Domino Award for Professional Service from St. Bonaventure University and the Empire Sports Network. Dick has also been given the Phil Rizzuto “Scooter Award” as the most caring broadcaster in the New York City area and was named Man of the Year by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County, NY.

Vitale is on the Board of Directors of The V Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer and founded by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano. He is on the advisory boards for the Harlem Globetrotters and the Henry P. Iba Awards. Vitale is also a member of the Associated Press voting panel for the top 25 and the selection committees for both the Naismith and Wooden Awards.

A few career highlights:
• Radio and television commentator for ESPN since 1979, and ABC, since 1988
• Coached Rutgers University basketball 1970-1972
• Coached University of Detroit basketball 1973-1977
• Coached the Detroit Pistons (1978-1979)
• Nominated for the Cable ACE award eight times, won in 1995
• Columnist for Basketball Times, Eastern Basketball and contributor to ESPN The Magazine
• Board of Directors of The V Foundation

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When terror struck the heartland, just 90 minutes away, we all stood united as Oklahomans. One day after the Murrah Building bombing, the Rotary Club of Tulsa provided a $50,000 grant from the proceeds of that year’s Iba Awards, which was then duplicated by others in Tulsa. Within another day, $100,000 was provided to our colleagues at the OKC Downtown Rotary Club 29 to use wherever they saw the need was most urgent to help our fellow Oklahomans.

Over the years, particularly at our club’s Celebrate! Centennial Banquet in 2015, the OKC Club has recognized this gift as a welcome symbol of Rotary friendship at a time when their club and the entire city was shaken.
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