Downloadable ESPN Images: http://bit.ly/1eYSgdj
Basketball Hall of Famer Dick Vitale, one of the most accomplished and impactful personalities in the history of sports television, has agreed to a new contract extension with ESPN that will carry through the 2017-18 season. The agreement will add another season to Vitale’s previous extension, which had been announced this past October. The 2017-18 season will mark the 39th on ESPN for Vitale, who started with the company in its first year (1979-80).
Vitale will continue to call some of the season’s top games across ESPN networks, including regular-season action primarily on ESPN and ESPN2 and the Men’s Final Four for ESPN International.
“Dick continues to connect with fans by demonstrating an incredibly successful combination of exuberance for and knowledge of the game he loves,” said John Wildhack, ESPN Executive Vice President, Production and Programming. “He is a one-of-a-kind personality and the passion he brings to everything he is involved with continues to have an enormous impact.”
Vitale added, “I am so proud to be part of the ESPN team. They have become my second family and have been a vital part of my life. It has been nothing but pure happiness working with the beautiful people at ESPN and I can’t thank them enough as they’ve been responsible for so many of the glorious days I’ve had in my life.”
Vitale joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season — just after the network’s September 1979 launch — following a successful coaching career. He called ESPN’s first-ever major NCAA basketball game – Wisconsin at DePaul on Dec. 5, 1979 (a 90-77 DePaul win). Since then, he’s called more than a thousand games.
Over the years, Vitale has been widely recognized for his work and his positive impact on others. Among the recent honors are: the American Cancer Society for his dedication to cancer awareness; the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) with a Court of Honor Award; and Seton Hall University with the Humanitarian Award.
Beyond the numerous awards he’s received for his work, including the sport’s highest honor in 2008 (Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in the contributor category), Vitale has been celebrated for his many charitable contributions. He’s been an outspoken and passionate fundraiser and board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research and has also worked closely with the Boys & Girls Club and Make-A-Wish, among other organizations.
While his knowledge, preparation and enthusiasm are unparalleled, his “Vitale-isms” have become part of the sports lexicon, including “Awesome, Baby!,” “Get a TO, Baby!” and “PTP’er.” Vitale, who has authored nine books, has been selected for nine halls of fame. In addition to TV, he contributes to numerous other ESPN outlets, including ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and more.
Vitale’s roots are in teaching the game he’s loved since childhood. Following college, he got a job teaching at Mark Twain Elementary School (Garfield, N.J.) and coaching junior high school football and basketball. He began coaching for eight years at the high school level in 1963, and in 1970, moved on to his first of seven years of college jobs with Rutgers and later University of Detroit. In May 1978, he was named head coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, the job he held prior to joining ESPN.