Dick Vitale Court dedication to unite fans, players, dignitaries
When the UDM Titans take on St. John’s Red Storm on Dec. 5 in Calihan Hall, it promises to be as explosive as fireworks with the teams’ smokin’ rivalry and an exciting pre-game dedication of the newly installed playing court named for legendary Titan basketball coach and ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale.
The hardwood floor of the new Dick Vitale Court is the cornerstone of several new upgrades at Calihan Hall that will benefit student-athletes and coaches who lead them to excellence.
“The Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Hall will serve as a perpetual tribute to not only Dick’s time at Detroit but also his significant contributions to the sport over his career,” says UDM Director of Athletics Keri Gaither.
The basketball court is part of a $1.6 million, multi-year project that also includes a center-hung scoreboard with video and replay capabilities (expected to be installed next summer) and multi-purpose rooms: a video film room/media workroom with tiered seating for 30 people (picture Titan teams breaking down game film) and a state-of-the-art conference room with wireless capacity.
To date, more than $600,000 has been raised. The multi-function rooms will be used regularly by student-athletes and staff, and provide an ideal setting for media interviews and press conferences.
“The dedication is a big deal for Detroit,” says Gaither. “Many of Dick’s former players and recruits – Earl Cureton, Terry Tyler, Terry Duerod, John Long and others – will be here for that evening.”
Dick greatly admires the people of Detroit and their love of sports; that admiration is reflected back by supporters and fans who made a lasting connection that clicked in the 1970s. This bond will be renewed when Dick comes to town to receive his honor. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, a former Pistons player, plans to be at the event along with many other dignitaries.
Dick got his start as a coach of the Titan men’s basketball team in 1973 and led the team to impressive victories. His coaching abilities, infused with witty one-liners and an unrivaled passion for the game and the team, propelled the Titans to a 78-30 record. This culminated with a 21-game winning streak during the 1976-77 season. Dick became the U of D athletic director in 1977 before leaving the University to coach the Detroit Pistons for two seasons.
“Coming to Detroit was the best move of my life,” says the New Jersey native. “There were some magical moments. What fun we had.”
He left coaching reluctantly – nearly kicking and screaming – in 1979. He accepted an offer to broadcast basketball games on ESPN, then an up-start sports channel. On Dec. 5, he will mark his 32nd anniversary with ESPN.
Many remember Vitale’s trademark phrases, such as “You’re awesome baby” and “diaper dandy,” a pet name for freshman players. Still energetic and expressive, Dick’s sentimentality and gratitude will also be on display at the dedication. Of all his Hall of Fame inductions and countless honors, he says, “This is one of my highest awards.”
Titan fans and UDM athletic patrons are encouraged to buy tickets early to this special night. Ticket prices are $20 for reserved seats and $10 for general admission. As part of the fundraising efforts for the Dick Vitale Court projects, those who contribute $5,000 or more will receive two game tickets and two tickets to an exclusive reception with a strolling dinner at the Detroit Golf Club, with Dick and his wife Lorraine as honored guests.
To contribute to the Dick Vitale Court projects fund, please contact Keri Gaither at 313-993-1217. For game details and tickets, please visit www.detroittitans.com.