Vitale apologizes for inadvertent remark

Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 1:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 1:43 p.m.

ESPN radio personality Dick Vitale said he has called Florida coach Billy Donovan and apologized for remarks he made comparing the NBA draft status of Joakim Noah and Al Horford.

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ESPN commentator Dick Vitale throws a few three pointers before the start of the Alabama vs. Kentucky game in 2001.

Tuscaloosa News/Joe Oliveira

Appearing on radio station WNML-FM in Knoxville, Tenn., Vitale did not know he was on the air when having a conversation with friends at The Broken Egg restaurant in Siesta Key. The hosts, Mike Griffith and John Adams, listened into the conversation in which Vitale told one of his friends that pro scouts were making a mistake by rating Joakim Noah over Al Horford.

"I was wrong for what I said," Vitale said by cell phone Tuesday. "To me, it's a non-story, a non-issue, but I feel bad for Billy because it put him in a negative light."

Donovan denied making the comment on Monday's Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference.

"I'm not going to comment about something I didn't say," Donovan said.

Vitale acknowledged that he did have a conversation with Donovan before Florida's game against Kansas at the Las Vegas Invitational, a game he called for ESPN. During the conversation, the subject of Horford and Noah came up.

"He told me 'NBA scouts really love Al Horford' but he never compared the two," Vitale said. "I think he was just looking to get Al some publicity at the time.

"I basically was having a conversation with a friend of mine in a restaurant who is a big Gator fan. Do you ever shoot the breeze with your buddies? I basically was just paraphrasing something that Billy said and took some liberties with it I shouldn't have."

The following is a transcript of the conversation taken from the audio file on the Knoxville News-Sentinel Web site:

Griffith: Dickie V!

Vitale: They're bored.

Griffith: Dick, are you there?

Vitale: There's no excuse to lose to LSU. No excuse.

Griffith: Hey, Dick.

Vitale: LSU without Davis? No way.

Griffith: Hey, Dick.

Vitale: This is interesting. [Taurean] Green and [Lee] Humphrey [Vitale's

line is cut off].

Griffith: Hmm. Not sure what happened with Dickie V. there.

Adams: That was an interesting commentary. Did he know he was on-air?

Griffith: I don't think he did.

Adams: He said there was no excuse for Florida to lose to LSU.

Griffith: There's no excuse to lose to LSU. I think that's true. I don't

have a problem with that.

Adams: How does LSU win that game?

Griffith: OK. [Vitale's line is open again.]

Vitale: Right now, I talked to some NBA guys who have a little doubt about [Noah]. I mean, he's still going to get drafted top six or seven, but [he has] no shot. No shot. I'm going to tell you what. I'd take Horford over him. You know who told me that in confidence? Billy Donovan grabbed me all alone and said the pro scouts are making a mistake. He said there's no way I would take Noah over - he said he would never say that publicly - over Horford.

Griffith: Hey, Dick.

Noah has slumped of late, averaging 8.3 points over his last four games. Horford, meanwhile, has developed a more well-rounded game in his junior season. Noah admitted last fall that Horford was a better player.

The potential distraction comes during a rough patch for No. 5 Florida. The Gators (25-4, 12-2) have lost two of three heading into their 9 p.m. game tonight at Tennessee.

Vitale will call the game tonight for ESPN.

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