Dick Vitale makes his strong annual pitch to defeat cancer this weekend. He has raised more than $10 million.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Dick Vitale has recruited the Kentuckiana area heavily to generate support for his annual gala that has raised more than $10 million in just eight years in Vitale's fight against pediatric cancer.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino served as one of his co-hosts in 2009. John Calipari of Kentucky stepped into the same leadership role in 2011. Now Vitale has his eye on another local basketball coach – Tom Crean of Indiana.
Vitale said that his dream co-host trio for 2014 is Crean, Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey.
Vitale and his wife, Lorraine, have already sold out the 2013 Gala, which will unfold this weekend at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla. Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun and retired Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden are the honorees. The Gatlin Brothers and Dennis Edwards, the former lead singer of The Temptations, will perform.
Vitale has raised the $10 million while working with The V Foundation, which was established to honor former coach Jim Valvano, who lost his fight with cancer 20 years ago.
"I'm at the point in my career where I've covered so many great games and been inducted into several Hall of Fames," said Vitale, now 73 and more than 30 seasons into his career at ESPN.
"But nothing does more to warm my heart than helping to put a smile on the face of a young child battling this terrible, terrible disease. This is a big-time focus of my life. The coaches I have asked to help me have been incredible in donating their time and money."
Vitale said that Calipari and Crean will attend the gala this weekend along with Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Miami coach Jim Larranaga and Jay Wright of Villanova. Former FSU quarterback Chris Weinke, Peter Warrick and Ricky Watters from the football world will also be there.
"Unfortunately, Rick Pitino can't make it, but he has been Mr. Generosity in terms of his donations, including this year," Vitale said.
*Fans across Kentuckiana have also been persistent with their generosity. If you would like to contribute this year, Vitale said that you can do it online at www.dickvitaleonline.com or by calling (941) 350-0580.
*Vitale's final prediction in the Andrew Wiggins' recruiting sweepstakes was Florida State. The winner, of course, was Kansas, which makes it a great year to have Bill Self as one of the honorees at the gala.
"Wiggins surprised me," Vitale said. "He really surprised me. He gives Kansas a great freshman class. Nobody has a class like Kentucky's. But Kansas has one of the special groups."
In the final rankings by Scout.com, the five-player Kansas class ranks tied for fourth nationally with Duke. Kentucky tops the list, followed by Memphis and IU. Louisville's four-player group ranks eighth.
*Before I add names or faces to the discussion, here are the numbers to consider:
Player A averaged 4 points, 1.5 rebounds and just less than one assist per game. He shot 47 percent from the field and 48 percent from the three-point line.
Player B played more than double the minutes and averaged 10.1 points, about 3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. He was only a 39 percent shooter overall, but a solid 35 percent from the three-point.
Indiana has essentially exchanged Player A for Player B.
Player A is the guy who unexpectedly decided to leave IU – Remy Abell. Player B is the guy who is in many ways taking his place – Evan Gordon, a fifth-year transfer from Arizona State who will be eligible immediately to play one season for the Hoosiers.
"There's nothing like an Indiana kid playing for Indiana," Gordon told Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star. "Coach Crean has that program rocking and rolling."
Gordon won't be the first member of his family to play for IU – and he might not be the last. He's the younger brother of NBA star Eric Gordon, who finished his one season with the Hoosiers in 2008. His younger brother, Eron, led Indianapolis North Central High School in scoring as a freshman, averaging more than 18 per game.
At 6 feet 1, Gordon is smaller than Abell, but a more explosive offensive player, scoring a dozen or more points 15 times and at least 20 four times. Although Abell shot a better percentage from the three-point line, he made only 16 of 33 attempts. Gordon ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in three-pointers made per game, hitting 61 of 176.
Abell, the former Eastern High School star, has visited Xavier and Saint Louis, but he is also considering St. Mary's in Moraga, Calif.