Vitale benefit


ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale was in a chipper mood when I reached him on his cell phone last week.

He was watching a high school baseball in the Sarasota area that included a couple of senior pitchers that were signed to go to Florida next season. Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan also was there watching his future prized prospects.

“The way these kids are throwing,” Vitale said with a laugh. “I don’t know if they’ll be coming to Florida next year.”

But Vitale was excited because in a few of weeks, he’ll be hosting his fourth annual V Foundation college coaches gala for cancer research. Florida coach Billy Donovan and Louisvllle coach Rick Pitino will serve as this year’s keynote speakers.

The Pitino-Donovan get together will take on some added significance because Donovan recently hired Pitino’s son, Rick Jr., as an assistant on his staff.

“I think it was a heckuva move,” Vitale said. “He’s an excellent recruiter. He’ll work hard for Billy there.”

The event, to be held May 15 at the Sarasota Ritz Carlton, has raised $2.4 million for cancer research in its first three years. Vitale said the goal is to raise more than $1 million this year after raising $1.2 million last year. Hospitals that will benefit from the event will include Shands in Gainesville, Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

“It’s going to be a spectacular event,” Vitale said.

The event will again feature a who’s who list of college basketball coaches that will include Villanova’s Jay Wright, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Maryland’s Gary Williams, Arizona State’s Herb Sendek, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Kansas’ Bill Self.

Vitale said that 75 of the 750 tickets still remain for the dinner event. For more information or to order tickets, you can call 941-374-6026 or 919-380-9505.

The V Foundation, named after late North Carolina State coach Jimmy Valvano, has raised more than $80 million for cancer research since its inception in 1993.