Wednesday, April 4, 2007

GET A T.O. BABY, THE HALL OF FAME IS MAKING A RUN

A former coach on the collegiate and NBA level, Dick Vitale has become the face, and exuberant voice, of college basketball over the past 27 years in his work as an analyst for ESPN. But that doesn’t seem to be enough to get him elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Failing for the third time, Vitale’s trademark enthusiasm remains intact. "If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me, I've had a great, great life." After he was a finalist and not elected in both 2004 and 2006, a groundswell of support for Vitale began from some of the bigger coaching names in college basketball.

The class of 2007 included North Carolina coach Roy Williams, one of those who wrote letters of support for Vitale. Williams, former WNBA coach Van Chancellor and two members of the 1966 NCAA champion Texas Western team were the only ones in Atlanta for the announcement. Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson couldn't attend.

"Dick has been maybe the most enthusiastic supporter for college basketball in the last 25 years and Roy Williams would love to see the day Dick Vitale is in the Hall of Fame because I know what that would mean to him," Williams said. "He has been so outspoken about the wonderful part of the college game, the pageantry, the spirit of college athletics. I'm extremely honored to go in with Phil Jackson, Van Chancellor, Texas Western. I would have been extremely honored to have gone in with Dick Vitale, too."

"Maybe I'm going to be the Susan Lucci of college basketball," he said with a laugh, referring to the soap opera actress who was nominated for an Emmy Award 18 times before finally winning. "I was touched to tears last night when I addressed a group of coaches and they started chanting `Hall of Fame, Hall of Fame.'

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