It is so special to be considered for this honor. I got goosebumps back on January 1st, when Bob Knight said that he felt the Hall of Fame wouldn't be the same if it did not have me in as a contributor. That was the day Knight won his 880th game to pass Dean Smith, and he shocked me by mentioning me during his shining moment.
The Basketball Hall of Fame is the highest honor anyone in our sport can receive. To be recognized among the best of the best, the creme de la creme is simply amazing. I am so thrilled by all of this.
It is also ironic that one of the other finalists for the 2007 Hall of Fame class is the man who fired me, Pistons owner Bill Davidson!
I will never forget the day, November 8, 1979. My wife told me that after a conversation with Mr. Davidson the night before, where I told him that he needed to make some changes to improve things with the Pistons, I would be fired. She said you can't tell an owner those things.
The next morning, before going to a shootaround before a game, I received a call that Mr. Davidson wanted to see me before practice and was going to stop by my house. I figured he would listen to my ideas. She said I was getting fired, 10-12 games into the season. My team broke all sorts of attendance records and I inherited a situation where the team was down.
Sure enough, Mr. Davidson knocked on the door and said he made a coaching change. I said what ... and then later on I cried like a baby. My career had really exploded from being a sixth-grade teacher in 1970 to coaching at Rutgers (assistant), the University of Detroit (head coach and athletic director) and then the Pistons. In little more than seven years, my career really went far.
Then, all of a sudden, you're fired.
This was not Donald Trump on the Apprentice my friends. This was shock city, good bye, out of a job. I did not know what was going to happen next.
Soon after, I received a phone call that again changed my life. A gentleman named Scotty Connal said he remembered hearing me speak before what ended up being my last college game, in the NCAA tournament against Michigan at Rupp Arena. Scotty said that he wrote my name down, and that if I was ever available, he would love to consider me as a college basketball analyst on TV.
That opportunity to join a network named E-S-P-N changed my life. Honestly, if I stayed in coaching, the way I took the losses so hard, I might not have made it to 55. I have not lost a game in 28 years, and I have been right on the sidelines with North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA and all of the heavyweights.
The game of college basketball has given me so much. This honor as a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame means so much to me ... I am just so thrilled. It is awesome, baby with a capital A!
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.