If you’re under 30 years old you might be wondering what the energetic broadcaster, whose “Awesome Baby!” has become synonymous with college basketball, has to do with the University of Detroit Mercy. Due to his success as the head coach of the basketball program, from 1973 to 1977, Dick Vitale will have the court inside Calihan Hall renamed Dick Vitale Court on December 5th when St. John’s comes to town to take on the Titans on ESPN2.
Dickie V was 78-30 at UDM and took the team to the NCAA tournament in 1977. The team went on a 21-game winning streak that season, included in that was a victory over eventual national champion Marquette. The Titans would finish that season ranked 12th in the final Associated Press poll. After that season he would take over as athletic director before leaving for a brief stint as head coach of the Detroit Pistons a year later.
Since December 5, 1979 Vitale has been the voice of college basketball on ESPN. He has a vote in the AP Top 25 poll and also casts a vote for the John Wooden and James Naismith awards that are handed out each year to college basketball’s top player. In 2008 Vitale was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor. How he didn’t receive enough votes the year before is beyond me as he’s done as much for college basketball as any player or coach ever has. You could probably make the case that college basketball on ESPN wouldn’t be as big as it is today if it wasn’t for him.
School athletic director Keri Gaither made the announcement today to media and fans:
“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. 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.”
Dickie V spoke of his time at UDM and expressed his gratitude in this pre-recorded video that can be found on the athletic department’s website.
Congratulations to “Mr. College Basketball” on a well-deserved honor.