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Basketball Bash was awesome, baby!

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

April 21, 2005 | ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament coverage

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Shapiro. Yes, I send my sincerest thanks to my boss, Mark Shapiro for allowing me to have a basketball bash. It was simply my way of thanking many of the beautiful people that I had the honor to work with this season. We had a great time for two days at my home located on the west coast of Florida.

The weather man cooperated big-time as many of those who attended participated in playing golf at the Lakewood Ranch Country Club, visiting the white sand of Siesta Key beach, and touring St. Armand's Circle where there are many restaurants/shops. The food both evenings was presented by Chef Extraordinaire, Paul Mattison.

Chef Mattison is highly acclaimed and he simply out did himself by presenting a variety of delicacies, as the first night was Italian night (naturally) and the second was seafood night. Both evenings went off without a hitch due to the wonderful organizing and planning of event coordinator, Mary Kenealy-Barbetta.

Dick Vitale
Dickie V relaxes with legendary tennis coach Nick Bolletieri and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.
It was loads of fun sharing stories and memories with people such as Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Doris Burke, Erin Andrews, Steve Lavin, Andy Katz, Howie Schwab from "Stump the Schwab", various producers such as Kim Belton, Lee Fitting, Tom Riley, Ray Tipton, Joya Caskey and PR whizzes Mike Soltys and Josh Krulewitz. Many other local sports luminaries who joined us were tennis guru, Nick Bollettieri, former Dodger relief ace Tom Niedenfuer, and former NBA and WNBA coach Richie Adubato.

We also had a visit from All-Americans Chris Thomas (Notre Dame) and Ryan Gomes (Providence) who are working out at the famed IMG academy to get ready for the NBA draft. It was great to have Dave Miller and Dan Steir who are invaluable to ESPN?s college basketball operations join us. Also in attendance was John Stote, president of Anaconda Sports and "The Rock" basketball and Fred Barakat, director of operations for the ACC. Many brought their families along and it was just simply awesome baby, with a capital "A"!

Word has it that Bilas and Fitting dazzled them on the golf course and Belton wowed them at the beaches as he strutted in the beautiful waters of the Gulf. But most of all it was just a grand time. Everyone also received a beautiful leather jacket with the ESPN college basketball logo and as many said, "Man what are we going to be doing tomorrow after two days of having a terrific time?"

I had the pleasure to share a few words about working for the best people and at the best place. It has been 26 wonderful years that have exceeded my dreams. Also, we heard a passionate presentation from Nick Bollettieri about his formula for success in life and then were treated to a special message by Colonel John Saputo, who served in Desert Storm plus recently in Iraq.

Yes, the hours flew by too quickly. Once again, thank you Mark Shapiro for allowing my co-workers to be able to spend two quality days with me and my family.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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