LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Dick Vitale is entering his 35th season with ESPN, and whatever you think of ESPN's A-team (and the a stands for "Awesome Baby") commentator, he has become an icon in college basketball who transcends the mere role he holds.
Ambassador of the game, and of goodwill for charitable causes too numerous to mention, Vitale isn't just a big part of college basketball growth over the past three decades, but an important presence for ESPN itself.
As a tribute, 35 ESPN personalities weighed in with their own Dick Vitale impersonations (winners: Bruce Pearl, Chris Fowler and the Bilastrator himself). Check out the video here.
As for Vitale as an announcer, I've never heard him better than in the opportunity to do the ESPN's International Broadcast of last season's NCAA championship game. He was the one commentator who truly, and early, saw the significance of Chane Behanan in the title game.
Thirty-four years in, and he turned in one of his finest moments on college basketball's biggest stage, even if it was a telecast that this country didn't get to see. (Through the beauty of YouTube, you can watch the broadcast in its entirety here.)
Vitale, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, is above all one of the sport's good guys.
People sometimes misunderstand his role. They say to me all the time, "Why isn't he talking about the game we're watching?" It's by design. ESPN knows the hard-core fans are going to watch its games. Vitale and others are around to try to widen the circle. He may not be your cup of tea, but where college basketball is concerned, he stirs the drink, and the game is far better for his presence.