Dick Vitale is synonymous with college basketball. He's been hootin' and hollerin' for nearly four decades, and has coined phrases like "Diaper Dandy" and "PTPer." This weekend Dickie V. will be commentating the Final Four for the first time in his career. He'll be calling the Louisville-Wichita State game for ESPN International. We got up with the legend to talk his promotion with Allstate, and of course, college hoops.
Tell us about this promotion you’re doing with Allstate.
Yeah, we're doing a big promotion with Allstate, “March Mayhem.” I'll be in Bracket Town in Atlanta, 2:30 p.m. on Sunday to meet with all the fans. I was just part of a big campaign where I competed against a dolphin as part of the Allstate Challenge and beat the dolphin 36 to 30, man!
You had a bracket with a dolphin?
Yeah, we threw two balls into the water in the Georgia Aquarium and a dolphin would pick a ball of one of the two teams playing and that's how they made their picks. Then I made my picks and I was able to come out ahead which I'm really happy about because if I lost I had to feed the dolphin, clean the dolphin [Laughs] but now I get a lifetime pass to the Georgia Aquarium.
Nice, that's impressive because dolphins are geniuses.
You're never going to go back to coaching right? You found your niche in commentary?
Oh, I love what I'm doing man; I love the people, I love going to the games. I hear the kids chant and I get goosebumps when they start chanting "Dickie V., Dickie V." I'm like a little kid, man. My wife and daughters always tell me, "hey, when are you gonna start acting your age?" And I always tell them, "you kidding me? I don't wanna act my age. I wanna be a kid at heart."
What did you think about this weekend’s games?
I think they came out the way I basically felt, in many cases. Before the tournament I had: Michigan and Louisville in the Final Four. Wichita State has certainly been a surprise, they shocked me, they're a very good basketball team. They were good all year. I mean, at one point they were 15-1 and they were top 15 in America; so they can play. They've done a great job, they beat the number one team in Gonzaga. Now they'll hook up with Louisville, who I think clearly is the best team in the land. Back in November I picked Louisville to win the National Championship and they've done nothing to change my opinion.
Michigan-Syracuse should be a great match-up as well. Syracuse's zone defense has been suffocating, people are shooting 29 percent against them and 15 percent from the three-point line. Their defense has been unreal. But, Michigan has the parts to beat that zone. Trey Burke is one of my favorite players, he is terrific, Tim Hardaway can make shots, and Mitch McGary inside can cause problems. I think Michigan has the parts to beat that Syracuse zone.
So you're picking Louisville and Michigan for the National Championship?
My gut feeling is if I'm gonna go that way, I would think so. That kid Stauskas can certainly shoot for Michigan as well. I mean, he hit six threes on Sunday. I really believe he can stretch that zone out with his shooting ability. My gut feeling would tell me, I don't like picking games, I'm gonna be doing the games internationally on ESPN, but I would say Louisville and Michigan would not shock me in the final.
This is the first time you're doing the Final Four, right?
Yeah, internationally. We're not doing locally, that's CBS. But I'll be doing the games with Brad Nessler and they'll be televised in 65 countries.
Did you get a chance to see that Ware injury?
Yes I did. Absolutely heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking and the emotion, you know there's two ways a team can go; they can go negative, that they're so down and they just lose it all and the other team pounces on them, or they can suck it up and play with pride and passion and that's what they did. They sucked it up and played brilliantly in the second half. They shut Duke down for eight minutes, didn't allow them a field goal. Siva and Smith were sensational in the backcourt. I had picked Louisville to beat Duke.
But I was surprised that it was such, well I guess it was the emotional thing, they just ran away with it in the second half.
Right. Well it was that eight minute spurt. It was 42-42 at one time and then all of a sudden, eight minutes, Duke doesn't score a field goal and they get outscored twenty to four by Louisville and that just blew the game open. And it was the defensive pressure that made that happen.
What do you think about the Baylor Women’s team losing?
Oh yeah, it was a great shock. I mean what a shock. Some people say the greatest upset ever in women's NCAA basketball history. In fact, Rebecca Lobo just tweeted me on Twitter. She said it's the biggest upset ever during the NCAA tournament in women's basketball.
We believe it.
Louisville's got to be the basketball capital of the world right now.
Yeah that's the fifth seed, man, that's pretty impressive. That's like the first team to ever shut Brittney Griner down like that. They were throwing everybody at her.
Yeah, it was just unbelievable. But think about the men's and women's programs at Louisville, there they are, what a magical day they had. Unfortunately spoiled by the injury to Kevin, but the good news with Kevin's injury is that people believe he'll be able to come back in six months and play again.
What high school prospects are you keeping an eye on for next season?
Well Kentucky's recruiting class is off the charts. Kentucky's class will be probably as good of a class, ever, ever recruited. So the Cats will be back, bigger than ever next season.
How do you feel about most of the Big East splitting up and going into the ACC?
I don't like it. I don't like it at all. I didn't like how the landscape of college athletics has changed drastically and it's all about greed, it's all about dollars, it's all about football, and that's what's led to this unbelievable chaos. That's the only way to describe it, it's chaos.
It's pretty unbelievable. Do you think kids are going to start getting paid in the near future? Let's say in ten years?
I don't see it happening. It should happen. It should. People are making millions. Coaches, announcers like myself, all of us have done so well and the kids who make that game what it is should get some compensation. Will it happen? I've been screaming about it for years and it hasn't happened so I don't know, I hope it does but I have my doubts.