College basketball's Knight and Summitt to be honored at benefit
SARASOTA -- Dick Vitale has been cleared to speak again so it should make it easier for the Lakewood Ranch resident to push along plans for building on the event he holds to benefit The V Foundation for cancer research.
In fact, his scare with throat surgery, coupled with the passing last March of 5-year-old Payton Wright of Sarasota after battling a rare form of brain cancer, has redoubled Vitale's passion to find ways to raise money for cancer research. The ESPN broadcaster is counting on the third annual Dick Vitale Gala on May 16 to take a major step toward that goal.
"I am on a mission," Vitale wrote last week about a target of raising $1 million for a research grant to fight pediatric cancer. "I am driven to help people battle that disease."
That mission will be helped by Bob Knight and Pat Summitt, college basketball's winningest coaches in Division I. The two luminaries will be the honored featured guests for the gala to be held at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.
Knight, the former Indiana coach now at Texas Tech, has won three national championships. He goes for win No. 900 on Wednesday at home against Texas A&M. Last season, Knight passed Dean Smith as the winningest coach in men's Division I basketball and, with a win Wednesday, would become the first men's coach to reach the 900 plateau at that level.
Tennessee's win over Auburn on Thursday gave Summitt, the Lady Vols coach, win No. 960. The only other female coach to crack the 900 barrier was longtime Texas coach Jody Conradt, who retired last season with exactly 900 wins. Summitt has won seven national titles, second only to John Wooden's 10 at UCLA.
Vitale has been a tireless worker over the years for The V Foundation, which was formed in honor of former North Carolina State men's basketball coach Jimmy Valvano. Vitale and Valvano worked together at ESPN until Valvano died of cancer in 1993.
Vitale took up the cause for Wright after learning of her battle last year. Following Wright's death, Vitale became determined to keep her name alive through a research grant.
Those seeking information about reserving a table or sponsorship packages for the gala should call 1-800-4JimmyV. More information is available at Vitale's Web site: www.dickvitaleonline.com.
Vitale is currently recuperating from throat surgery to remove ulcerated lesions on his left vocal cord and has not been able to speak for more than three weeks. He has also been battling a bladder infection that has required a pair of three-day hospital stays.
Vitale is scheduled to return to the "Mike & Mike in the Morning" ESPN Radio show Feb. 4 and plans to call his first game Feb. 6 between Duke and North Carolina.
Until then, he continues to work on the gala, an event that had Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski as its honored guest a year ago and now has Knight and Summitt.
Vitale is already working on next year's event and has revealed that the gala will honor Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino and Florida men's basketball coach Billy Donovan. Pitino coached Donovan at Providence and Donovan was an assistant to Pitino at Kentucky.
For those unable to attend the gala, donations to The V Foundation to support the research grant may be made to The V Foundation c/o Tandem Enterprises, 7810 Mathern Court, Lakewood Ranch, Florida 34202.
The V Foundation Web site can be accessed at JimmyV.org.