By David Brandt, Associated Press
MIAMI — University of Miami basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale was hit with a crushing blow just a few weeks ago: He was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer.
Yet, the 71-year-old Vitale was standing up from his hospital bed Saturday, taking a seat behind the microphone that he worked for nearly half his career — and throwing his trademark mantra right into the action.
“I can’t believe how lucky I am to be still here,” Vitale said. “I feel great. I’m up and around. I am all good. … I want to get back here as soon as I can.”
Now, Vitale can get back to where he made his living — announcing for the Hurricanes, who began practice Saturday for the 2018-19 season. He’ll work from a studio-like area where he’ll be able to call the games from afar, depending on his health, and look over video when needed.
Vitale’s words remain a constant, though.
“I’m going to be OK,” Vitale said. “That’s the good news. Because I’m going to do this — I want to do this.”
The former Indiana player, who was a student at Miami in the late 1950s, has worked at Miami since 1965 and has called basketball games for every power conference program in the country — from Kentucky to UCLA, Duke to North Carolina, Duke to Pittsburgh, Kansas to Michigan State, Virginia to Florida, St. John’s to Villanova. He’s in the NBA broadcasting Hall of Fame and will never step away from high-profile assignments, the way his two older brothers did before him.
Vitale said his latest bout will be tough, physically and emotionally. It came so quickly that some of his hospital staffers were surprised that Vitale returned to work Saturday.
But his voice did, and he had a message for all those who have cancer.
“To all the people out there with cancer, I’m getting better,” Vitale said. “I’m going to beat this. … I’m back, man. I’m there. I’m good. … Get better. We got good ones out there. We got a fight on our hands. But you’re not alone.”
Vitale’s lasting legacy is as a longtime part of the college basketball beat, calling Duke-Louisville in the early 1970s and now calling five Final Fours for the ACC network.
Now, he has to play catchup.
“My voice is still in my head,” Vitale said. “What I’ve missed is being in the gym. I miss being able to teach and yell at coaches and players. It’s almost like I’m a little kid again.”
Miami coach Jim Larranaga spoke to Vitale before the Hurricanes’ first practice Saturday, talking about how his friend had asked to do more than simply sit back and watch the media session that followed it.
“I want to know what you are feeling when you’re on the sideline, sitting in a chair, watching,” Larranaga told Vitale. “What you would want to be doing? What do you want to say?”
When Vitale returned to the dais that day, he received a standing ovation.
“I’m so glad we have you back,” Miami star Lonnie Walker IV said, looking at Vitale. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Vitale is expected to miss a few more weeks before being able to take full command of the studio. When he does return, he’ll likely have a full television schedule with five ACC basketball games scheduled on Fox and three or four television games working with the NFL’s league-owned network for the NFL draft.
“There’s still an appreciation for not just basketball, but he understands those really important special things,” Larranaga said. “But right now, for this season, we’re going to ride this moment.”