What New Year's Day means to me

New Year's Day always brings me some special memories. I reflect back to my childhood and it was always a special time. We would start with a big bash on New Year's Eve, eat at my mom's house.

Then next day we would have a festive party at my mom's house, or at my aunt Lee, who lived next door. I think back to the times with my parents as well as my aunts and uncles and we had a blast reflecting on the year gone by and looking ahead to the future. It was always a big celebration, a terrific party with family and friends.

It is kind of sad now since my mom and dad, as well as most of those aunts and uncles have passed away. These people were always special in my life because they got me into sports at an early age. I remember my uncles -- Tom, Frank, John, Sam and Mike -- were so sports crazy. They took me in the house before we went to church and we would argue about who was the best centerfielder. Was it Duke, Willie or Mickey? Then my dad would come in and say it was Joe Di, baby!

My family had so many beautiful people. The holidays are all about love and spending time with family. My mom could cook the best Italian meal you would ever want! It never stopped and I remember her screaming that I did not eat all the food, that I didn't try the meatballs! It was incredible and there was so much love. You could feel it and today I share with young people that the time flies by so fast.

Never stop saying "I love you" to the people you care about. Before you know it, they could be gone and that breaks your heart. I was telling my grandchildren -- Connor, Jake, Ryan, Sidney and Ava -- about how lucky they are to receive the love from their parents and grandparents.

Special moments in life stay with you forever. There's nothing like sharing those moments on New Year's Eve. It is also a time to reflect on the past year, and it was a rough one at times for me. I go through the scary period after my throat surgery. I was fortunate enough to come back and enjoy working the game I love so much, being on college campuses, sharing thrilling moments with the kids.

I was so thrilled to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City.

When I talk about January 1st, I have to think about the sports world. There are the bowl games on New Year's Day and more sports memories are made. There are traditional battles like the Rose Bowl. It is especially wonderful to share it all with the family.

League play in college basketball really kicks in full blast after New Year's Day. I look at the season as being a four-act play: the pre-conference schedule, league action, Championship Week and then March Madness, the best three weeks in sports, baby!

There is more than just sports. I am a fanatic, but I also know one thing in my life. I have been so blessed to have so much love. I hope that I can do the same and extend a hand to others as well.

Here's hoping that 2009 is a special one for everybody out there.