By LARRY VAUGHT
Growing up Dick Vitale can remember family arguments about who was the best center fielder in baseball. Everyone had an opinion — with no one opinion being right or wrong.
That helped inspire the idea for a new book by the ESPN college basketball analyst that he hopes will bring back “memories to a lot of players and people” just like it did for him.
“Dick Vitale’s Mount Rushmores of College Basketball — Solid Gold Prime Time Performers From My Four Decades at ESPN” is co-written with Hall of Fame sports writer Dick Weiss and stats guru Howie Schwab.
Vitale went to work for ESPN on Dec. 5, 1979, and his Mount Rushmore lists start with his hire date. That means coaches John Wooden and Adolph Rupp are not on his list of coaches. Instead, he has Bob Knight, Dean Smith, Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski as his top four.
“These are my choices and I can respect the fact that not everybody will agree,” Vitale said. “We wanted to impact a lot of people with my memories and I am so proud of the response we are getting. It has all been very positive.”
He said putting Knight, Smith and Krzyzewski on his top four coaching list was easy. Picking Williams as No. 4 was not as easy. He admits he considered Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun, Bill Self and John Calipari, too.
“I gave Roy the edge because of what he has achieved not only at North Carolina but also what he did at Kansas,” Vitale said. “He has three titles. I had to go with him.”
He has a lot of Kentucky connections in his book.
Calipari is listed as one of “All Mr. March” coaches along with Izzo, Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino, who does belong there for what he’s done at every stop in his career. Vitale calls him the “perfect” fit for Kentucky.
Two former UK players — Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns —are on the “All One and Done” list along with Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. The “All Traveling Men” — coaches who have had success at more than one school — includes Tubby Smith along with Self, Rick Barnes and Left Driesell.
Perhaps my favorite list is the “All Golden Voice” of all-time great college basketball announcers. First on the list is Kentucky’s Cawood Ledford.
“He is a legend. Everybody in Kentucky knows that,” Vitale said. “Cawood was simply the best and such an intricate part of Kentucky basketball. He was one of those guys who would eat, sleep and drink his sport. He was a true Hall of Famer. Couldn’t have a list without my man Cawood. He was Kentucky basketball.”
It’s no surprise that all proceeds from the book will go to the V Foundation for pediatric cancer. Vitale has helped raise millions of dollars to help kids battling cancer and there is a tribute at the start of the book to those who have have been to a V Foundation gala and since lost their battles.
“I am obsessed with raising money to help these kids,” Vitale, who was at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis last week, said. “Every dollar will go through the V Foundation.
“You can preorder (at www.amazon.com) and get an autographed copy. The books would make great Christmas gifts. I am really passionate about this and just want to help kids at the same time I am sharing my memories of my 40 years at ESPN.”