BRADENTON, FLA. – It is pretty easy to tell that ESPN college basketball commentator Dick Vitale loves his job, especially during March Madness.
“I call it March Mayhem and it has been wacky,” said Vitale. He has been working mornings and nights talking basketball for ESPN’s Sports Center.
“I have been blessed now 35 years at ESPN and the people at ESPN have been fantastic to me, they are like my second family, they really changed my life. I am 74 years old and I act about 12, especially when March Madness happens.”
Vitale says Floridians have a reason to be proud of the Florida Gators team led by Coach Billy Donavon.
“That team defensively is as good as any team in America. What they did on defense against Pittsburgh was unbelievable.” He says the University of Florida’s suffocating defensive can give the Gators a chance to be National Champions.
March Madness is definitely a busy time for the Basketball Hall of Fame commentator but since he lives in Lakewood Ranch, ESPN allows him to work from home.
“Today with the modern technology to be able to get everything done right from my house with all my buddies who do a great job coming back and forth from Sports Center.”
When he is not working for ESPN, Vitale hangs out the First Watch restaurant in Lakewood Ranch.
“Friendly guy. He’s almost like your neighbor. I mean you can sit down and talk to him and everybody is treated the same way,” said First Watch customer, Don Noble.
Vitale happily signs autographs for every fan with all the enthusiasm of his on air basketball commentary.
“People always say to me, where do you get your energy? I get my energy because one, I love people, two, I love what I do and number three, I really work with some terrific people,” said Vitale.
When he is not talking basketball he is talking about his second passion, cancer research. Vitale actively solicits donations for the V Foundation that funds cancer research.
“Because there is nothing worse than seeing a child have to do chemo or radiation. They should be out playing having fun.”
The First Watch restaurant has a display of Vitale’s books and merchandise and all the proceeds from the sale of the products go fund cancer research. Don Noble and his son Jake bought a basketball that Vitale gladly autographed.
“Any time you can buy products that he signs and the proceeds go to a charitable organization, you got to give to that,” said Noble, adding, “It is a win-win.”
One of Vitale’s biggest cancer research fundraisers is coming up on Friday, May 16. It is the 9th Annual Dick Vitale Gala 2014 at the Ritz Carlton, Sarasota. There will be plenty of sport celebrities on hand to honor three coaching greats, Mike Brey, Nick Saban and Tom Brean.