UDM to Name Court for Dick Vitale


The University of Detroit Mercy has a long and storied basketball tradition. The University announced on Wednesday that as a part of major renovations to Calihan Hall, the new basketball court will bear the name of former coach and long-time ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale.

Vitale was hired as Detroit’s head men’s baseketball coach prior to the 1973-74 season after a stint as an assistant at Rutgers. In four seasons at UDM, Vitale compiled a record of 78-30 (.722). His record includes a 21-game winning streak during the 1976-77 season, the last of those 21 consecutive wins coming in a road game at Marquette, who, under head coach Al McGuire, would go on to win the National Championship that season.

Vitale’s Titans were included in the 32-team field of the NCAA tournament that season as well, defeating Middle Tennessee State in the first round before bowing out in a tough five point loss to Michigan in the round of 16. Vitale spent one season as the University’s athletic director before taking the head coaching job with the Detroit Pistons. He was fired just 12 games into his second season disappointing season with the Pistons.

December 5, 2011 will mark the 32nd anniversary of Vitale calling college basketball games for ESPN and on that day, Vitale and the ESPN2 crew will be at Calihan Hall for the UDM game versus Big East power St. John’s. It’s certainly fitting that on that day, the basketball court will be officially named in his honor.

Vitale’s coaching career was a short one, but his stay at Detroit was very successful. In naming the court for him, the University is not only honoring his time at UDM, but also Vitale’s overall body of work as a broadcaster and ambassador for the sport.

Vitale’s response was understandably flattered, as you can see for yourself in the video above.

“What Dick has done for the game of college basketball is nothing short of remarkable, and it is only fitting that we honor him in such a special way – given his career started right here at U of D as a head coach,” UDM Director of Athletics Keri Gaither said. “Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Hall will serve as a perpetual and lasting tribute to not only Dick’s time at Detroit but also his significant contributions to the sport over several decades.”

When I first heard of the idea, I admit, I thought it was a bit of a joke. Vitale’s career at UDM, while successful, certainly wasn’t long enough to merit such an honor. This move seems like more of an attention (and money) grab than anything else. The more thought I’ve given it, however, the more I’m okay with the idea.

UDM is certainly not as prominent of a basketball program as they once were, so anything they can do to bring some positive attention is probably worth doing. Yes, this move will bring increased exposure to the school and I’m sure the national audience they’ll get from it played at least a small role in making this decision, but at the same time Vitale’s has been the single most recognizable face (and voice) associated with men’s college basketball for more than 30 years. If the school where he got his start chooses to celebrate that, no matter the motives for the choice, I’m all for the idea.

John Parent is the Senior Editor at Motor City Bengals and MLB Director for the Fansided Network. Make sure to follow him on twitter @JohnParent_MCB.